DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – The US Census Bureau underestimated more than 8% of occupied dwellings in 10 Detroit neighborhoods in the 2020 census, a surveillance rate that, if applied city-wide, could mean as many as dozens thousands of residents were missed, researchers hired by the city said Thursday.
Detroit will file a complaint against the census results if they are not changed during the Census Bureau’s appeal process that begins next year, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said.
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“This is professional misconduct on the part of the Census Bureau,” he told a news conference.
The statistical agency said Thursday it was working on a response to the city’s allegations.
Data from the 2020 census showed Detroit with 639,000 residents, while 2019 estimates put the city’s population at 670,000. A drop of 31,000 residents would be “very unlikely,” said Jeffrey Morenoff, a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan who helped conduct an undercoverage study for the city.
“It was an off-trend line drop that was very abnormal,” Morenoff said.
Researchers hired by the city have conducted their own counts of housing units in 10 neighborhoods in Detroit, officially called census block groups, which can number between 600 and 3,000 people. In five of the neighborhoods, researchers sent canvassers to observe whether the units were occupied or vacant, and they compared the results with occupancy data from the U.S. Postal Service.
In the other five neighborhoods, only postal service data and American Community Survey data were used for analysis.
The analysis estimated that 964 residents in the 10 wards were missed. If applied city-wide, it could mean tens of thousands of people have been underestimated, according to the report. Duggan wants the census to add the thousands of potentially missed people.
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Even before the numbers were known, Duggan said he was worried Detroit had one of the lowest self-response rates of any major city, and it was the first census in which a majority respondents were encouraged to complete the census questions online.
The Democratic mayor attributed the shortfall to the Trump administration’s efforts to end the enumeration early last fall, which he said pressured enumerators to ignore the following protocol which required knocking on the door of unconscious households six times before resorting to interviews with neighbors or others for information. The Census Bureau also did not send enough enumerators to Detroit, focusing instead on the suburbs and more rural areas, he said.
Detroit is no stranger to census lawsuits. Then-mayor Coleman Young filed a lawsuit after the 1990 census, and the numbers were then adjusted.
“It has been difficult for the Census Bureau to do an accurate count in Detroit for many decades,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former congressman specializing in census matters.
The 2020 census was called into question last year by the pandemic, natural disasters, delays and attempts at political interference by the Trump administration.
Any challenge to the once-per-decade census numbers would have no impact on the numbers used to determine the number of congressional seats each state gets and the data used to redraw congressional and legislative districts. But they could affect annual population estimates over the next decade, which are used to help determine the allocation of $ 1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.
The Census Bureau this week sent information to state, local and tribal leaders on how they can start the process of challenging the census numbers. The window for contesting population and dwelling counts runs from January to June 2023. A separate program allows contesting population estimates derived from census counts.
Meanwhile, measuring the accuracy of the 2020 census is going to be more difficult than usual.
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The Census Bureau said Thursday that it would not be able to provide undercoverage and overcoverage rates below the state level because the sample size was too small in a survey used to measure population size. precision. In the previous census in 2010, they were provided for counties and localities.