NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Figuring Out How To Count People

February 3, 1999

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that using sampling or polling in the course of the 2000 census would be illegal, politicians on Capitol Hill are trying to figure out how to achieve an accurate count -- without double-counting some people, while leaving others out.

Rep. Dan Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Census, is proposing his own plan:

  • Conduct a post-census local review which would allow local officials to check numbers for their areas before the count was made official.
  • Hire 100,000 extra enumerators to work in the hardest-to- count areas, as well as put AmeriCorps volunteers to work on the count.
  • Raise the ad budget for the census to assure that everyone gets the message and conduct a second census mailing to household which failed to respond to the first inquiry.
  • Allow welfare recipients, veterans and native Americans to take temporary census jobs without losing their federal benefits.

An undercount in certain areas -- primarily those with substantial populations of the poor, minorities and recent immigrants -- would result in the loss of federal and state aid. Los Angeles, for example, expects to be short-changed by $227 million over the next decade. Chicago might lose $184.4 million.

Source: Rep. Dan Miller, "Focus on Legal, Accurate Count," and Editorial, "Fears of Political, Economic Loss Revive Threat to 2000 Census," both USA Today, February 3, 1999.


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