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First glimpse at new census data

By Staff
From staff, wire reports
March 7, 2001
Mississippi leaders are likely to get a first look as early as Thursday at new population statistics from Census 2000, statistics that could change the face of state politics for the next decade.
The Census Bureau has projected that redistricting data will be transmitted to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and legislative leaders as early as Thursday, or perhaps Friday. The data will help officials redraw political boundaries for congressional seats through city councils, including state legislative districts.
The information will include data about race (a total of 63 possible categories), ethnicity (Hispanic or non-Hispanic) and age (under voting age or over voting age).
Once a state officially notifies the Census Bureau it has received the data, the Census Bureau will release it to the news media and the public.
Nationally, 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.
Analysts, meanwhile, said the new numbers will show that the fast-growing Hispanic population is roughly equal to blacks as the nation's largest minority.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans said he endorsed a Census Bureau conclusion that the initial raw count offered the most accurate snapshot of the population.
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 to the states' governors and legislative leaders today, bureau spokeswoman Laverne Collins said. But they will not be released to the public until the state officials acknowledge receiving them.
The numbers will foreshadow the growing diversity of the country, analysts said. The report and recommendation issue by the bureau last week included the first glimpse into national-level population numbers by race.
This was the first census that Americans were allowed to identify themselves as being of more than one race on the form. The report found there were 34.6 million people in 2000 who were classified as black'', with no other race. An additional 1.8 million Americans classified themselves as black and some other race.
The black population in the 1990 census, which only allowed people to check off one race, was 30 million.
Using adjustment methods, the bureau also estimated there could have been a 2.1 percent undercount in the black category in 2000, raising the total to 37.2 million.
The Hispanic population in the 2000 census was about 34.5 million, according to preliminary estimates by demographer Jeffrey Passel, who had access to Census Bureau information as a consultant to a federal panel overseeing the census. That was up from 22.4 million in the 1990 census.
The Hispanic population has long been considered the nation's fastest- growing minority, and had been forecast to pass blacks next year as the nation's largest.
Republicans cautioned that many of the numbers, though, were based on preliminary estimates, and may change. The Census Bureau was expected to release a full report on race and ethnicity next week.
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.
Nationally, 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.
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.
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.
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