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The number of Americans who mailed back census questionnaires this year exceeded expectations, Census Bureau officials said Tuesday.

That was also true in many of Buffalo's suburbs, though not the case in the city, according to final mail-back responses released Tuesday.

Nationally, 67 percent of households either mailed back a census questionnaire, filed it over the Internet, completed a form over the telephone or returned a survey obtained from a neighborhood census assistance center, Census Bureau officials said.

Just 57 percent of Buffalo residents mailed back a census form, figures show.

"The nation ended a three-year decline in response rates; it even reversed that decline," Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said during a press conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.

"In 1970, the response rate was 78 percent; in 1980, 75 percent; and in 1990, 65 percent," Prewitt said. "For 2000, the prediction was that it would only be 61 percent. In this context, the 67 percent response rate is an unexpected, extraordinary achievement."

The final response rates released Tuesday are the percentage of households that mailed back census forms. The figures don't include the number of people who failed to file a form and had to be tracked down by census takers this summer.

Population numbers will be released early next year, and census officials believe the strong mail-back response will translate into a more accurate count. The strong mail-back response also required knocking on fewer doors and enabled census takers to finish door-to-door operations on schedule, officials said.

Locally, Amherst had 85 percent of households mail back a census form; Cheektowaga, 85 percent; Clarence, 86 percent; Grand Island, 84 percent; Town of Hamburg, 84 percent; Town of Lancaster, 85 percent; Town of Tonawanda, 86 percent; West Seneca, 86 percent; Kenmore, 83 percent; East Aurora, 85 percent; and Orchard Park, 86 percent.

The census Web site is

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