Bush administration rules against using adjusted census data to distribute funds
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Census Bureau, citing errors in statistically-adjusted census data, said Wednesday it would not permit use of sampled population numbers to help distribute over $185 billion in federal aid to state and local governments.
Acting Census Bureau Director William Barron said at a news conference Wednesday his agency would have to do additional research before determining if there will be any public release of the adjusted data. But he did not give a time frame for such a decision.
Wednesday’s announcement means the federal government will use raw, unadjusted population numbers now to disburse the U.S. dollars, which support a host of social programs including Medicaid and foster care.
Bureau officials had weighed whether adjusting population figures with statistical sampling would improve the already completed raw head count.
Most Democrats and civil rights groups said it would be better, by offering a better tally of minorities, the poor and children – groups typically missed in higher numbers.
Many Republican opponents claimed sampling would insert more errors into a 2000 census that already was better than the one in 1990, because of a lower national net undercount. They have also said that while adjustment may count people originally missed, it may not place them in the correct neighborhoods.
The bureau had said there was a net national undercount of 1.2 percent of the country’s 281 million people in 2000, or about 3.2 million. The 1990 undercount was 1.6 percent, or about 4 million then.
But Barron said Wednesday that current estimates show the net undercount in 2000 was reduced to less than 1 percent. The decision was made by career Census Bureau professionals, officials said, and came as Commerce Secretary Don Evans was in Russia for his first foreign trade mission.
The bureau faced a similar decision in March, and recommended against adjusted data as the basis for redrawing congressional, state and local political districts.
There were too many discrepancies between adjusted data, the actual count and a third survey used to measure accuracy, and not enough time for further analysis, Barron said then.
House Republicans praised the earlier decision, which angered Democrats and civil rights groups.
Groups such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors also supported sampling, which could boost population figures for cities with larger minority populations and,likewise, federal dollars into those cities.
Specifically, Wednesday’s decision determined whether adjusted population counts would be used for purposes other than drawing new political boundaries. It affects 2000 census data yet to be released, as well as various other population estimates and surveys the Census Bureau conducts in between head counts.
The results from many of those estimates and surveys are used in formulas that determine the distribution of federal funding to states and local communities.
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