Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Applied Geography






Major social changes stem from policies that their developments heavily rely on public participation in the decennial U.S. Census. For individual states, the population counts determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the amount of federal funding each state receives, leading to state outreach efforts to encourage participation in the census. The present empirical study uses advanced data collection technologies based on a user interface (UI) and machine learning techniques (k-means clustering, random forest, gradient boosting) to analyze the effectiveness of the outreach activities organized by the State of Illinois. As a result, we assess various types of outreach activities in different geographic areas with distinct socio-economic and demographic characteristics. Findings from the models in this study show that outreach activities classified as “direct engagement (1-on-1)” and “single events” bear the highest impact, especially in predominantly low-income minority communities in metropolitan areas. However, socio-demographic characteristics are found to be generally more influential on response rates than outreach activities performed in the area, and in many underperforming areas, a high number of activities does not correlate with an increase in response rates. The findings of this research could assist in structuring outreach efforts in different countries and the U.S.

Funding Sponsor

Illinois Department of Human Services


Public policy, 2020 Census, Outreach activities, Machine learning, User interface technologies, Spatial data


This is a post-peer-review, pre-copy edit version of an article published in Applied Geography, Volume 154, 2023. The final authenticated version is available online at:

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Urban and Regional Planning

Available for download on Thursday, March 20, 2025