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For Immediate Release:
Contact: Clark Reid
(301) 457-5088

False Hopes, False Expectations Raised By Statistical Adjustment

Census Monitoring Board Study Finds Isolated and Minority Communities Will Remain Undercounted and Under-represented

WASHINGTON – Local benefits of statistical adjustment are more myth than methodology – a statistical promise to cure the problem of local undercounts that cannot be kept, according to a recent study of Census Bureau data by the U.S. Census Monitoring Board Congressional members. In a report to Congress dated September 30, 1999, the Board reported the findings of its study and made recommendations to Members of Congress, state and local officials, and community leaders on ways to ensure their constituents are counted.

“Even though the Bureau will statistically adjust the 2000 Census, our study reveals that heavily undercounted neighborhoods will remain heavily undercounted despite adjustment, and overcounts in many areas will actually be increased,” said Board Co-Chairman J. Kenneth Blackwell.

“False hopes and false expectations have been raised among groups with the most to lose if they are not accurately counted and counted where they live – African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and children,” said Blackwell.  “This report is a warning to everyone concerned about the severe and systematic undercount of isolated and minority communities in the 2000 Census – statistical adjustment alone has no hope of correcting large undercounts in local areas.”

The report analyzes the 5,170 local areas surveyed in the Bureau’s 1990 post-enumeration survey (PES) – virtually the same as the Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation (ACE) survey the Bureau plans to use for Census 2000.  It is the first external analysis of Bureau data that demonstrates the effect of statistical adjustment on block-level data.  Block-level data is used in allocating public funds, community planning, and re-drawing Congressional districts.

The report notes that statistical adjustment may well “correct the undercount” in a global sense – that is, improve the overall national count – but the practical point of the census is to apportion the count correctly. While statistical adjustment will increase the count over large geographic areas, local leaders expecting substantial gains in representation and funding through statistical adjustment are likely to be disappointed.  The data show that localities and neighborhoods will experience only marginal change, regardless of the severity of their undercount or overcount. Statistical adjustment will not be accurate at smaller geographic levels.

“Clearly, statistical adjustment will fail the very communities that depend on the census most for the schools, health care and child care that come with being counted,” the report notes.  “Local and state leaders’ efforts to get constituents counted will do much more to ensure a fair share [of political representation and funds for vital services] than statistical adjustment ever could.”

A full copy of the September 30 report to Congress, as well as information regarding the Board and Census 2000, is available at