Commerce OKs ‘head count’
WASHINGTON (AP) – Calling it the ”most accurate census in history,” the Bush administration refused to adjust the 2000 head count in a decision eagerly awaited by states for congressional redistricting.
Critics immediately assailed Tuesday’s move as one that could cause millions of Americans, mostly minorities, to be missed in the count.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans said he endorsed a Census Bureau conclusion that the initial raw count offered the most accurate snapshot of the population. Those numbers will begin to be sent to states this week for lawmakers to use in redrawing political boundary lines.
In making the decision, Evans turned aside pleas by Democrats and civil rights groups to use a second, statistically adjusted population tally that they said would compensate for an estimated 3.3 million uncounted Americans.
”I weighed their recommendation, evaluated their report, … and I concluded that the recommendation of the Census Bureau professionals was correct and prudent,” Evans, a longtime friend and supporter of President Bush, told a news conference. ”We will send unadjusted data” for redistricting.
The first numbers, for New Jersey and Virginia, will be sent Wednesday to the states’ governors and legislative leaders, bureau spokeswoman Laverne Collins said. But they will not be released to the public until the state officials acknowledge receiving them.
Data for nine other states were scheduled to be sent to officials there on Thursday or Friday, Collins said: Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Evans’ decision quieted, for now, a long political debate between congressional Democrats and Republicans over whether, and how, to account for those missed in the actual national head count.
Estimates from a survey following the 2000 census found a net undercount of 1.2 percent of the country’s 281 million people on April 1, 2000, or about 3.3 million Americans. That was down from 1.6 percent in 1990, or about 4 million of the country’s population then of 248 million.
Democrats and civil rights groups said an adjustment using statistical sampling would protect against traditional undercounts of minorities and children that continued to exist in the 2000 count.
This was the first census that Americans were allowed to identify themselves as being of more than one race on the form. A Census Bureau committee report estimated 36.4 million people identified themselves in 2000 as ”black” or ”partially black.”
But, using adjustment methods, the bureau also estimated there could have been a 2.1 percent undercount in the category, raising the total to 37.2 million.
Republicans countered that the Constitution does not allow for anything other than an ”actual enumeration” for redistricting. They also said that adjustment would insert more errors into a 2000 census more accurate than 1990.
GOP officials also warn that the estimates offered from the survey could change after more analysis by the Census Bureau is done.
”At this point, we’ve given the country the best estimates that we can provide,” said acting Census Bureau Director William Barron.
Evans agreed with a bureau recommendation that adjusted data could not be used because there were too many discrepancies with another, similar analysis bureau officials perform to measure accuracy.
Barron said his agency had too little time to remedy those problems before the decision due on redistricting.
Nevertheless, sampling supporters asked Evans for all numbers to be released down to the block level, the smallest level of Census Bureau geography.
Currently, undercount percentages are available on the national level only.
”Today, Secretary Evans stated that his Commerce Department has run an open, fair and transparent decision making process,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., a staunch sampling supporter. ”Then why isn’t he releasing the data that the Census Bureau has compiled?”
However, Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee’s census panel, said it would be irresponsible to release or use ”less accurate or adjusted numbers for any purpose at any time”
”Legal and public policy problems aside, the scientific hurdle of using sampling to improve the accuracy of the census could not be met,” Miller said.
Bureau analysts will continue to study the adjusted numbers to determine if they should be released at all, or at what point they would be made public, Evans said. The process could take months, he said.
On the Net: Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/index.html
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