Bureau looking at adjusting for undercounts in some numbers

Mar 29, 2022, 2:08 PM | Updated: 3:11 pm

The U.S. Census Bureau is going to look at ways to possibly adjust its annual population estimates to account for the undercounts of some minority groups in the 2020 census numbers, a top official at the statistical agency said Tuesday.

A technical research team within the Census Bureau is looking at the feasibility of adjusting the numbers to reflect the undercounts from the 2020 census, which provide a foundation for the population estimates, so undercounts are not baked into future estimates, said Karen Battle, chief of the bureau’s population division.

The population estimates are used for distributing federal funds and measuring demographic changes in the years between the once-a-decade censuses. No changes can be made to the figures from the 2020 census used for determining how many congressional seats each state gets or the numbers used for redrawing political districts.

The bureau is looking at the feasibility of making “additional improvements in the future,” Battle said during a briefing with cities, counties, tribes and civil rights groups that had sued the Trump administration’s Department of Commerce over the execution of the once-a-decade head count in 2020. The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau.

Even though the overall U.S. population was missed by a small percentage, 0.24%, during the 2020 census, some minority groups were overlooked at greater rates than the previous decade. The Black population was undercounted by 3.3%, those who identified as some other race had a 4.3% undercount, almost 5% of the Hispanic population was missed and more than 5.6% of American Indians living on reservations were undercounted.

The Asian population was overcounted by 2.6% during the 2020 census, and white residents who are not Hispanic were overcounted by 0.6%

The Department of Commerce settled the lawsuit with the coalition of cities, counties, tribes and civil rights groups in the early months of the Biden administration.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Census Bureau agreed to hold periodic updates on the quality of the census data, like the briefing Tuesday. The lawsuit forced a two-week extension of the 2020 count. The coalition had claimed a shortened schedule would cause Latinos, Asian Americans and immigrants to be missed in the count.

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Bureau looking at adjusting for undercounts in some numbers