The Fiscal Impact of the Census Undercount on Cities  A 34-City Survey
January 1999

Executive Summary

Currently, no national data exist on the fiscal impact of the census undercount on local governments. In an effort to estimate the impact of the 1990 undercount on cities, and to estimate the likely impact of similar inaccuracies in the 2000 census, The U.S. Conference of Mayors obtained and analyzed information from 34 cities. Among the findings of that analysis:

  • The number of persons estimated to be undercounted in the survey cities represents an average of four percent of the cities’ populations.

  • Across the 34 cities, the estimated total loss in federal and state funds during the 1990s resulting from the 1990 undercount was $536 million. The amount lost to the cities during the 1990s averaged $1,230 for each person not counted in the city; for each person in the city who was included in the city’s 1990 population count, the loss averaged $56 per person.

  • Twenty of the cities were able to estimate that if the 2000 census maintains the same level of inaccuracy as the 1990 census, their loss in federal and state funds during the first decade of the 21st century would total $677 million. This represents an average of $2,263 for each person not counted in the city, or $129 per person for each person in the city who is included in the city’s 2000 census count.