- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2022

The 2020 census got the country’s total population right but undercounted Black, Hispanic and American Indian residents while overcounting White and Asian residents, the Census Bureau announced Thursday.

The bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, a data quality check, suggests the 2020 count missed 3.3% of Black residents and a more daunting 4.99% of Hispanic residents. The American Indian undercount was also sizable at 5.64%, the bureau said.

But the count also tallied 1.64% more non-Hispanic White people and 2.62% more Asian people, according to the PES.

The White and Asian overcount and the Hispanic undercount were all significantly higher in 2020 than they were in 2010, officials said.

All told, of the 323.2 million people the Census Bureau counted on April 1, 2020, 94.4% were counted correctly. Another 1.6% were double-counted, 0.6% had other errors and the rest had to have their data imputed.

“Today’s results show statistical evidence that the quality of the 2020 census total population count is consistent with that of recent censuses. This is notable, given the unprecedented challenges of 2020,” said Robert L. Santos, the bureau’s new director. “But the results also include some limitations — the 2020 census undercounted many of the same population groups we have historically undercounted, and it overcounted others.”

The 2020 count was done during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, which created serious headwinds.

Advocacy groups also complained that the Trump administration’s failed attempt to insert a question about citizenship on the full 2020 form scared some residents — particularly immigrant-heavy Hispanic communities — away from participating.

“There is no question that the previous administration’s political interference contributed to the undercount,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of the NALEO Educational Fund, who called the new data a “five-alarm fire.”

The estimated undercount of Hispanic residents in 2010 was 1.54% or less than a third of the 4.99% undercount estimate this time.

Given the use of census data in doling out hundreds of billions of dollars in government assistance, erroneous counting could have major ramifications.

But Mr. Santos said the overall count should be good enough.

“Taking today’s findings as a whole, we believe the 2020 census data are fit for many uses in decision-making as well as for painting a vivid portrait of our nation’s people,” the director said.

Mr. Vargas didn’t see it that way.

He said since the numbers are used for civil-rights enforcement, the Census Bureau needs to go back and find a way to “ameliorate” the Hispanic undercount. And he said the bureau needs to start now to prevent a repeat in 2030 by moving away from reliance on mailed forms and door-to-door canvassing.

“If our country can find a way to pull through a once-in-a-century global pandemic, we can find a way to count all of our residents fairly and accurately,” he said. “We need to modernize the census with a fresh approach to make the progress needed to reach this important goal.”

The PES does a deep-dive sample survey then matches those records to the actual 2020 count, then examines the differences to make its estimates.

The undercount estimate for Black residents in 2010 was 2.06%, while the 2020 undercount was pegged at 3.3%. The bureau said that was “not statistically different.”

White people were overcounted by 0.83% in 2010, and 1.64% this time — which was a “statistically” worse performance. Asian people, meanwhile, were estimated to have been properly counted in 2010, but overcounted by 2.62% this time.

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders were overcounted at an estimated 1.28%, which was close to the 1.02% rate of a decade ago, the bureau said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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