The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday made a significant announcement, saying that while the overall 2020 Census population number published last year — 323.2 million — is probably close to accurate, other numbers published last year represent significant undercounts of minority populations. So, Trump and his cronies basically got what they wanted, but at least the bureau is saying so.
The census-taking process is a daunting and complex one, and in a statement Thursday, the bureau's director Robert L. Santos said, "We remain proud of the job we accomplished in the face of immense challenges." But, Santos said, the results of what the bureau calls its Post-Enumeration Survey and Demographic Analysis Estimates show that the results of the 2020 Census were somewhat faulty in ways that previous censuses also have been — namely the published counts undercounted Black and Brown people, and overcounted white and Asian populations. The survey also found a statistically significant undercount rate of 5.64% among American Indian and Alaska Native populations living on reservations — and the bureau notes that these populations were also undercounted to the tune of 4.88% in 2010.
The process by which the new estimates were arrived at is sort of confusing. The New York Times explains that they are "based on an examination of federal records and an extensive survey in which the bureau interviewed residents in some 10,000 census blocks." From those interviews and reviews of records, the bureau is able "to estimate how many residents it missed entirely in the 2020 count, how many people were counted twice and how many people — such as deceased persons or short-term visitors to the United States — were counted mistakenly."
The reasons for the undercounts are several, and they include the pandemic and wildfires that raged across the West in the summer and fall of 2020, which both hampered the door-to-door enumeration process. Then you had Trump, in an election year, trying to thwart the accuracy of the count by moving the deadline around, and that low-key evil Commerce chief Wilbur Ross who lied to Congress to get a citizenship question put on the Census form. And yeah, we're lucky the numbers look close to accurate at all.
But what about state and congressional district populations that affect political representation? Well, the American Statistical Association did its own analysis in September that said these numbers were accurate enough for those purposes. (But you can bet California gets the most screwed.)
The bureau says that the 2020 Census miscounted around 18.8 million individuals, missing some, double-counting some, and mistakenly including others.
Census expert and government consultant Terri Ann Lowenthal tells the Times that the undercounts are "troubling but not entirely surprising," given that similar undercounts happened in 2010 as well. But, Lowenthal says, the 2020 Census, overall, is "less accurate" than the one ten years prior.
Even with the undercounts, the Census showed America as it is, and as all Trumpers fear — growing less white and more diverse. The country grew at its slowest rate in history, by 23 million people in 10 years, per the Census, but almost all that growth was in Latinx, Asian, Black, and mixed race populations. California's Latinx population grew by 11% over the decade between 2010 and 2020, and the state's Asian population grew by 25% — both much faster than the state's overall population growth rate of 6%.
Santos said in a statement that the bureau is "ready to work with the stakeholders and the public to fully leverage this enormously valuable resource." And, Santos says, "the 2020 Census data are fit for many uses in decision-making as well as for painting a vivid portrait of our nation’s people."
If you want to nerd out on the stats, you can do so at the bureau's Data Quality website.
Photo: Enayet Raheem