- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

The announcement this week that the 2000 census overcounted rather than undercounted the population, as was originally thought, proves the Bush administration was right not to release "adjusted" census numbers two years ago, the Census Bureau's director said.

"It's very clear that when we were cautious in March 2001, saying we weren't going to adjust for redistricting, we were very prudent," C. Louis Kincannon, the bureau's director, told editors and reporters in a meeting at The Washington Times yesterday.

"The estimates provided by the [Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation] are not as good as the census. We do accept there is an undercount for non-Hispanic blacks, and probably for Hispanics as well, though it's not as clear or statistically significant," he said.

The bureau announced this week that, rather than failing to count 3 million people in 2000, the census overcounted by 1.3 million people. Whites, Asians, American Indians and children younger than 10 were overcounted, while blacks and Hispanics were missed, the bureau said.

Still, that error rate of about 0.5 percent is the best the census has done in decades, Mr. Kincannon said. "Really, for the first time in quite a while, we had an appreciable improvement in coverage."

Mr. Kincannon credited Congress for appropriating enough money to pay census workers and publicize the count, and partnerships formed with community leaders that boosted compliance among some ethnic groups and other groups that are traditionally difficult to count.

The census figures are used to reapportion congressional seats among the states, and to redraw the lines within states. The numbers also are used by the federal government, states and localities to disburse funds.

Most agree that the census has undercounted blacks, particularly black males, every decade since 1940. Congressional Democrats and minority leaders have called for the use of statistical methods to correct the undercount.

The Supreme Court has ruled that actual census counts must be used for reapportionment, but advocates say it should be used in the other areas.

After the bureau's announcement this week Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, said it seemed the Bush administration was giving up.

"While the Bush Administration is again admitting that the 2000 Census undercounted African American males, continuing the racial disparity first measured after the 1940 census, the problem with today's announcement is that undercount appears to be okay with them," she said in a statement.

She said the Bush administration already is laying the plans for the 2010 census that don't include adjusted numbers. Without the groundwork now, she said, a later administration that supports corrections wouldn't have time to implement the procedures.

Mr. Kincannon said he is asking for money this year to continue studying the problem, but he also said they are not requesting money to fund adjusted numbers for reapportionment or redistricting.

"I'm willing to ask for $200 million, and then some, but we want to make sure it works," he said.

"If we had a method of doing it, that would be another thing," he said. "But we don't have a method that would do it, and that's the opinion of people at the Census Bureau who have worked on this for several years, day in and day out, and that includes people who would like to do it."

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