Census may have missed Nevadans
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Despite a record number of Nevadans responding to the 2000 census, state demographers concede that thousands of new residents and minorities might have been missed in the nation’s official head count.
Thousands of suburbanites in southern Nevada – the state’s most populous area that is home to about 70 percent of its residents – might have been overlooked by census workers, in part because of the way mailboxes are grouped together in new housing developments.
Nevada recorded the largest rate of population gain nationwide – 66.3 percent since 1990 – initial Census Bureau results released in December show.
In Henderson, as many as 300 homes containing about 2,500 new residents might have been left off the census master address list. And as many as 10,000 people might have been missed in the same manner countywide, Henderson demographer Scott Woodbury said.
The southern half of the master-planned community of Summerlin and rural towns also might have been undercounted in unincorporated Clark County, county demographer Don Matson said.
The potential undercount in the suburbs and rural areas makes Nevada unique, according to Keith Schwer, director of the Business and Economic Research center at UNLV.
”Typically the undercount issue is more significant in large urban areas and among minorities and children,” he said.
Municipal demographers will examine the census data for potential undercounts when population totals and racial breakdowns for Nevada are released as early as next week. By law, all states must receive their data by April 1.
The census data, which is used to allocate federal funds and to determine congressional districts, should give Nevada a third congressional seat. In addition, state lawmakers will use the numbers to draw new lines for legislative and board of regents districts.
The Bush administration has declared the actual ”head count” from the 2000 census as the official population numbers for congressional redistricting, despite estimates showing 3.3 million people were missed nationwide.
Nevada’s undercount from the 1990 census was estimated at 28,876, or 2.3 percent, according to state demographer Jeff Hardcastle. The national total was 1.6 million.
”The Nevada undercount was low,” he said.
And it should be even lower this year, local demographers say.
A decade ago, only 56 percent of Nevadans responded to the census compared with 66 percent in 2000. Figuring a housing vacancy rate of 5 percent to 10 percent, that means roughly only 25 percent of Nevadans did not respond to the 2000 census, Hardcastle estimated.
Nevada was one of only five states that met or exceeded its targeted response rate, according to the Census Bureau. The others were California, Wyoming, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The national average response rate was 67 percent, up slightly from 1990’s rate of 65 percent.
”We believe the undercount will be lower than 1990, when there was little work done on local or state levels to get people to respond,” Matson said. ”We really improved a lot.”
State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, said he isn’t too concerned about his largely minority district being undercounted. Most of his constituents live in single-family homes, where they were more easily tabulated than residents in more densely populated urban areas.
”I think the count could be off just a little bit, but not that much to really make a difference,” Neal said.
But Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, said many Hispanics who are new to the area likely didn’t fill out census forms for a variety of reasons, including fears the information would help authorities locate illegal immigrants.
”There were people that I’m sure were missed,” Romero said.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans agreed Tuesday with last week’s Census Bureau recommendation that the initial, raw count provided the most accurate snapshot of America.
Democrats and civil rights groups had called for the use of a second, separate population tally statistically adjusted to protect against the undercount.
Evans called the initial figures the most accurate census in the history of the nation.
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