Wednesday, March 07, 2001

City loses in final census

Leaders say undercount will cost millions

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati leaders worry that the federal government's decision Tuesday to use the head count from the 2000 census as the official population tally will cost the city political influence and millions of dollars in federal money.

        The Bush administration declared the raw count from the 2000 census as the most accurate portrait of America even though some experts estimate that as many as 3.3 million people were missed in the nationwide tally of 281 million people. Those not counted were more likely to live in poorer urban and rural areas, analysts say.

    • New Jersey and Virginia are expected to get their population figures today. The Census Bureau will release counts of Indiana and eight other states by Friday and remaining states, including Ohio and Kentucky, by April 1.
        “My fear is that this census was more bungled than the previous (1990) census,” Councilman Paul Booth said, referring to an undercount that cost Cincinnati an estimated $40 million in federal funds over 10 years. “I suspect we will lose even more.”

        Calling the count the most accurate in U.S. history, Commerce Secretary Don Evans approved a U.S. Census Bureau recommendation to use the 2000 census as the official figure for redrawing political boundaries.

        The Census Bureau already has released a state-by-state population count used to gauge which states gained or lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The next wave of figures — to be released starting today — will measure the population and racial makeup of counties, cities, towns and even blocks.

        The counts start a political fight between Democrats and Republicans with each party trying to draw boundaries favorable to them in elections.

        Democrats, which tend to draw more political support in cities, have urged the federal government to issue a second set of “adjusted” numbers that are statistically altered to compensate for undercounts in urban and other areas. They say that's the best way to guard against missing minorities and children.

        But Republicans contend that an extra $1 billion spent on the actual count has produced a thorough result and any adjustment would skew its accuracy.

        “The differential undercount of minorities and children has virtually been eliminated,” said Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is also co-chairman of the Census Monitoring Board established by Congress. “What you will find is the undercount looks more like America,” with both whites and minorities missed.

        Mr. Booth said he's heard from suburban residents who were repeatedly visited by Census workers. He doubts the same effort was spent in city neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine and West End.

        Census workers culled data from mailed surveys as well as phone calls and neighborhood visits.

        The census said 70 percent of Hamilton County residents returned their 2000 forms by mail — 5 percentage points less than in 1990; Cincinnati's figure was down 6 percentage points, to 61 percent. The national average was 67 percent, up 2 percentage points.

        Cincinnati officials estimate the 1990 census undercounted the city's population by 3 percent to 4 percent, costing $40 million in federal funds and political clout.

        Sheila Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, urged the most accurate counting method be used.

        “I don't want our constituents to be negatively impacted,” Ms. Adams said. “Anything that would prevent that needs to happen.”

        Sylvia Lovely, executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities, said Kentucky cities might be in better shape than Texas and California.

        “They probably have more serious undercounts to deal with,” Ms. Lovely said.

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