Making Sense of the 2010 Census series

Now that the official 2010 Census data has been released for all 50 states, several cities across the country are preparing to dispute the numbers.

New York City officially announced its intention to challenge the Census count at the end of March, claiming the population numbers are way too low, particularly in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs.

In a statement delivered during a recent press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed a strong concern that there has been “a significant undercount.” Officials attribute the low estimates to underrepresentation in heavily immigrant-dominated communities and housing units that were erroneously deemed vacant.

An accurate population is important because it determines political representation in the state and federal legislatures – as well as state and federal funding for programs, public services, infrastructure, and schools.

To handle these disputes, cities must follow procedures set forth by the Census Bureau’s Count Question Resolution (CQR) program, which will begin accepting submissions on June 1.

Detroit also plans to challenge the official 2010 Census count, saying it falls short by about 40,000 residents. In a recent Detroit Free Press article, Mayor Dave Bing said that the city was successful in challenging the 2000 census, and 50,000 residents were added to the rolls when the revised figures were released in 2007.

Also quoted in the article was John Baran, executive manager for the city’s Planning & Development Department, who explained that “the city’s challenge likely will include using building permit information to identify housing units and addresses that census workers may have missed.”

Houston and Miami are among several other cities that intend to challenge the 2010 Census figures.

But it’s not just the big cities that plan to dispute the Census figures. Little Flock, Arkansas (with a population of roughly 2,500 residents) does not agree with the Census figures that show the town’s population virtually unchanged from the 2000 Census, and also plans an appeal. Bandera, Texas – a city in the San Antonio region – intends to challenge the Census Bureau’s ten percent decline in its population, which brings the official count down from 957 residents in 2000 to 857 residents in 2010.

In a San Antonio Express-News article, New Mexico state demographer Lloyd Potter says, “The bar is fairly high to win an appeal … The burden of proof is on the county or municipality challenging the census to demonstrate there is sound evidence for revisiting the count and essentially modifying it.”

According to the Census Bureau CQR program, “If a challenge results in a change, the Census Bureau will issue official revised counts to the affected governments.”

“Following the 2000 Census, potential count problems were identified for 1,180 out of 39,000 jurisdictions – less than 3 percent of all governmental jurisdictions across the nation.”