NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Amid Controversy, Census Bureau Adjusts Population Figures Upward

December 6, 2002

The Census Bureau now says it undercounted the U.S. population by 3.3 million persons in 2000. That would amount to an undercount of 1.2 percent. But the bureau's associate director says the agency has no confidence in the adjusted numbers, and a bureau spokesman called them "highly inaccurate."

  • Despite those words of caution, the bureau say California, Texas, New York, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina had the largest number of uncounted residents.
  • Alaska, Hawaii, the District of Columbia and New Mexico had the largest undercounts proportional to their populations -- at roughly 2 percent or more.
  • Local officials blame the undercounts on an influx of large numbers of immigrants in recent years.
  • Undercounts have broad implications for states and cities because census numbers are used to redraw political districts and are used to distribute $185 billion in federal funds annually.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the adjusted numbers can't be used to redraw congressional district boundaries. But state and local governments can use them to redraw local and state political districts and distribute tax dollars.

Lawsuits would likely challenge redistricting based on the newly released data.

The Census Bureau said it will not assume any responsibility for the accuracy of the new numbers or help interpret them.

Source: Paul Overberg, "Adjusted Census Figures Add 3.3 Million Residents," USA Today, December 6, 2002.

For text


Browse more articles on Government Issues