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Census Bureau says 2010 count was mainly accurate

May 22, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Once a decade, the Census Bureau sends interviewers out to U.S. households. Above, the streets of Santa Monica in November.
Once a decade, the Census Bureau sends interviewers out to U.S. households.… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

The 2010 census continued to miscount the same groups that it's had problems keeping track of in the past, but overall was essentially accurate, officials said Tuesday.

According to an assessment of its count, the Census Bureau said it had overcounted the total U.S. population by 0.01% or about 36,000 people, an improvement from the 2000 census, which had an overcount of 0.5%.

But the census had the same problems it usually has in dealing with minorities, renters and young males. The 2010 count of minorities was short by about 1.5 million people, including about 2.1% of African Americans and 1.5% of Latinos. The percentages of those shortchanged groups are about the same as in the 2000 census.

Also undercounted were renters, down by about 1.1%; about 5% of American Indians living on reservations; and nearly 2% of minorities who marked themselves as “some other race.”

“While the overall coverage of the census was exemplary, the traditional hard-to-count groups, like renters, were counted less well,” Census Bureau director Robert Groves said in a prepared  statement. “Because ethnic and racial minorities disproportionately live in hard-to-count circumstances, they too were undercounted relative to the majority population.”

Once a decade, the Census Bureau counts Americans, sending out interviewers and questionnaires to households. The numbers form the basis of a host of programs, including reapportionment of state and federal legislative districts and the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid.

Cities and states are usually the most vocal in challenging the numbers, arguing that undercounting minorities means that municipalities fail to get their proper share of federal dollars.

On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released what is in effect its check on the count. The survey, called “Census Coverage Measurement,” gauges the accuracy of the count by analyzing a sample of the 300.7 million people living in housing units, then matching the results with the survey data and computing estimates of error.

The Census Bureau praised its efforts in the 2010 census and highlighted how it has improved over the years. In 1940, the undercount of the total population was as much as 5.4%. African Americans are still the most likely to be undercounted, but the situation has improved since 1940, when the overcount reached 8.4%.

“On this one evaluation — the net undercount of the total population — this was an outstanding census,”  Groves said. “When this fact is added to prior positive evaluations, the American public can be proud of the 2010 census their participation made possible.”

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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