Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Census Slip Up: Report Says 14 States Had Significant Miscalculations in the 2020 Census

How Will it Affect Congressional Seats?


The U.S. Census Bureau released a report Thursday stating that at least 14 states were not counted equally well for population numbers used to allocate political representation and federal funding over the next decade. 

As with every census, a follow-up survey was conducted by the bureau to measure the national tally's accuracy. The latest census found significant net undercount rates in six states: Arkansas (5.04%), Florida (3.48%), Illinois (1.97%), Mississippi (4.11%), Tennessee (4.78%) and Texas (1.92%).

It also uncovered significant net overcount rates in eight states: Delaware (5.45%), Hawaii (6.79%), Massachusetts (2.24%), Minnesota (3.84%), New York (3.44%), Ohio (1.49%), Rhode Island (5.05%) and Utah (2.59%).

This isn't the first time this has happened. Some identifiable groups–including certain minorities, children, and renters–have historically had substantially lower count rates than the population as a whole. The report notes that the over and undercount in 2020 is significantly higher than in the 2010 census.

In March, the bureau released follow-up survey findings that showed significant national net undercount rates for Black people and Latinos, as well as Native Americans living on reservations. The bureau also found significant national net overcount rates for white people who do not identify as Hispanic and Asian Americans.

The bureau says it has no plans to release state-level over or undercount rates by race and ethnicity or any rates for counties, cities or towns.

Congressional Representation

How will this affect the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College? Census bureau officials said the follow-up survey's estimates, were delayed largely because of the pandemic and the meddling of the Trump administration, which tried to cut short the timeline of counting the census results. They said it will not change each state's share of representation in the House or the Electoral College.

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that a small sample used for statistical surveying of over or undercount after the results of a Census have been released cannot be used for reapportioning Congress.

The House clerk certified each state's new share of House seats based on the 2020 population tallies, even if they were wrong.

The bureau has set up a team that will research how to factor the survey's results into population estimates, which, along with census data, helps guide the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal money to local communities.

"We are taking a closer look at the net coverage error information that's been presented today, and we know that there is additional net coverage information that has yet to be produced," said Karen Battle, chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's population division.


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