>The Census Bureau's participation map made quite a splash last week. More than half of Americans (56 percent) had completed their forms by April 5, but there was tremendous variation across the 50 states. Wisconsin topped the list with 69 percent of Wisconsinites sending in their forms. Midwestern states did well across the board with more than two-thirds of Iowans and Minnesotans completing theirs. At the opposite end of the spectrum, less than half the residents of Alaska, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana completed theirs; 50 percent of New Yorkers had filled out their forms and 51 percent of D.C. residents.
But what factors might drive census participation? With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, I decided to take a quick look. We examined the correlations between census participation and economic factors, demographic characteristics, and state personality traits. This analysis is based on simple correlations which identify associations between variables but do not specify causality. I also spoke to my colleague and collaborator, the Cambridge University personality psychologist Jason Rentfrow about these results.
The short answer is that in terms of who fills out census forms, personality is the only thing that seems to matter. We found no correlation between census participation and key economic and demographic variables like income, economic output, education level, or type of jobs. But we found some considerable correlation between states where more people filled out their census forms and three of what psychologists term the Big Five personality types -- especially in states with high concentrations of agreeable people, extroverts, and open-to-experience types.