- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2000


The first fruits of the Census Bureau's 2000 count will be visible today when officials release numbers that will document changing population trends.

In fact, the statistics to be released today spell out which states are winners and which are losers in terms of the number of seats they have in the House.

This comes after a year in which the bureau, part of the Commerce Department, spent $168 million on advertising, sent out questionnaires to more than 120 million homes and hired 440,000 part-time workers to do the door-to-door questioning.

Although the process was fraught with controversy, the Census Bureau director, Kenneth Prewitt, talked in optimistic terms about the results.

"We are convinced that when the data are out, it will underscore what we've been seeing, which is that Census 2000 has been operationally a successful census," he said.

The first results are raw, state population totals. They are expected to confirm trends that estimates have hinted at since the previous census a decade ago booming populations in the South and West, slower growth in the North and Midwest.

That report will be followed by more detailed statistics in March, which will reveal America's new racial makeup. The 2000 questionnaires allowed people for the first time to check off if they were of more than one race, providing a rich portrait of racial identification never before available.

The numbers have complex political implications. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the raw state data will be used to reapportion the 435 seats in the House among the 50 states.

Estimates based on 1999 figures by some private demographic research groups show that Arizona and Texas states with booming immigrant populations stand to gain two seats each. California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Montana and Nevada are forecast to gain one seat each.

New York and Pennsylvania could lose two representatives each, while Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin may each lose one seat.

The March report may include two sets of numbers: the raw figures, and a second set adjusted by way of a statistical method known as sampling. The same court decision left it to states to decide which numbers to use when they redraw congressional and state legislative lines beginning next year.

But first, the incoming Bush administration will have to decide whether to release the adjusted numbers, which many believe will help Democrats. President-elect George W. Bush hasn't said what he will do.

Mr. Prewitt believes the results will yield a demographic portrait of America as complex and diverse as ever. More detailed statistics will be released incrementally over the next two years, ranging in topics from poverty and income to immigration and same-sex-couple households.

The Census 2000 operation did have problems, however.

Earlier this year, some of the mailings sent to Americans to remind them of the count were misaddressed because of a printing error. And in March, just after most of the forms were mailed, some congressional Republicans questioned the intrusiveness of some questions on the 53-item long form: "How much money do you make?" or "Do you have plumbing at home?"

The public weighed in on editorial pages and radio talk shows, causing some problems for part-time census workers hired to go door-to-door to ask the questions.

"You would think it would be the income questions, but the one I heard the most flak about was about how many toilets you had in your house," said Michael Zdan, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who worked for the Census Bureau over the spring and summer.

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