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Census overcounts in LI, undercounts minorities

The 2010 census overcounted the nation's population by about 36,000 people, a rate of just 0.01 percent, but undercounted several minority groups despite outreach efforts, according to estimates released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2010 census overcounted the non-Hispanic white population by 0.8 percent, but undercounted the black population by 2.1 percent, the Hispanic population by 1.5 percent and American Indians and Alaska natives living on reservations by 4.9 percent.

The bureau provided a demographic breakdown only at the national level, and confirmed that an estimated 1.55 million minorities were undercounted.

New York and Long Island showed higher overcounts than the national average, according to the bureau's estimates: 0.79 percent for the state, 0.82 for Nassau County and 0.16 for Suffolk County.

The bureau said there were no statistically significant overcounts or undercounts in any state, any large counties and in places with populations of 100,000 or more.

Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant and blogger for The Census Project, a national coalition of organizations seeking a fair and accurate decennial count, applauded the bureau for producing a "good, high-quality census," but expressed concern that minorities continued to be undercounted. Communities with overcounts tended to be affluent and white, she said.

Even with the net overcount, Lowenthal added, "some communities -- especially minority, poorer and immigrant communities -- are going to get less than their fair share of resources and political representation, as compared to communities where there's more likely an overcount."

Census data play a role in the allocation of some $400 billion in government funding to localities and in legislative redistricting.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves spoke to those issues Tuesday at a news conference from Washington.

"While the overall coverage of the census was exemplary, the traditional hard-to-count groups," such as minorities and renters, "were counted less well," he said.

Groves alluded to the bureau's outreach, which included partnering with hundreds of thousands of community groups and hiring people from within hard-to-count communities to work as census-takers.

"Without that, this traditional pattern would have been much, much worse," Groves said.To measure the 2010 Census' accuracy, the bureau used what it called a "post enumeration survey," based on a sample of the population, something it has done since 1950.

Lowenthal said she feared the undercount of minorities could grow in 2020 if the Census Bureau doesn't have the funds "for significant new research into more effective methods." She noted Congress already has imposed budget cuts on the bureau.

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