The U.S. Census count relies on an army of short-term employees to count residents. Image: Flickr / adriarichards / CC-BY-SA

The United States Census is a once-per-decade count of residents of the United States. The government in New York City is disputing the results of the 2010 Census, claiming that New York City’s population was underestimated. The Census estimates are used to determine everything from federal funding to representation and can be revised if necessary.

New York challenging census count

In an announcement made Monday morning, Mayor Bloomberg revealed that the City of New York will be officially challenging the results of the 2010 census. The official 2010 count of New York City’s population was nearly 8.2 million people, a 2.1 percent increase from the 2000 census. Some neighborhoods, such as Jackson Heights and Astoria, reported decreases in population. The city says the Census under-counted residents of the city, recording homes as “vacant” when residents could not be contacted. Detroit officials are also considering challenging the 2010 Census numbers.

The effect of Census counts

New York City’s opposition to the supposedly low Census count is more than a matter of municipal pride. The numbers from the Census count are used to determine funding for schools, social programs, housing, roads and pretty much every other program. Census counts are also used to tabulate the distribution of representation on almost every level of government. An under-counted population means that a city or state will have to stretch fewer dollars further.

Challenge of the count

A report issued by the U.S. Mayor’s Association in January of 1999 claimed that urban cities have their populations under-reported by an average of 4 percent. Mayor Bloomberg claims that census workers simply marked homes as vacant rather than making enough attempts to contact the residents. When challenged with counting every resident of the United States, it is inevitable that the Census Bureau will make a few mistakes. If residents of a home do not return the questionnaire and do not respond to the multiple in-person inquiries, census takers must make their best estimation as to the number of people, if any, that live in a residence. These estimations often throw off the final count. The Census Bureau does revise estimations of population and has done so for large cities in the past.


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