Impact of the Census Undercount on Cities A 34-City Survey
FindingsThe Extent of the Undercount
The number of persons estimated to have been undercounted in the survey cities represents an average of four percent of those cities populations. The number undercounted ranges from 159,000 in Chicago and 138,878 in Los Angeles, to 21,600 in San Francisco and 21,500 in Long Beach, to zero or an insignificant number in Cuyahoga Falls, Green Bay, Pembroke Pines and Scottsdale. The following table shows the total population and the undercount for the cities able to estimate the number undercounted.
Among the city officials comments on loss of federal and state funds:
Anaheim: City officials estimate the following program revenue losses for the decade:
Charleston: We have used the figure of $4,000 as the amount of revenue generated per person per year. The 2,500 per person deficit could mean a loss of $100,000 each year for the City through State and federal funding grants, etc.
Chicago: The Citys estimate of lost federal aid is based on a study which used formulas for five major programs and estimated the impact for 96 other programs. This study is conservative because it used 1989 funding levels and does not reflect increases in entitlement funding during the 1990s. It is also important to remember that the cost of the undercount does not directly correspond to the impact of sampling since sampling will not capture the entire undercount. Among the factors in determining financial impact:
Covington: Not only does the undercount impact funding based upon total city population, it also impacts those programs which are based upon need and income level. The latter is important because the undercount in our city was predominately skewed toward the low income segment of the population.
Deerfield Beach: The City of Deerfield Beach only recently secured a successful challenge and convinced the U.S. Bureau of the Census that we are a community of more than 50,000, rather than 47,000, as was originally included in the 1990 census. What does this mean to the City of Deerfield Beach in terms of dollars? We had to secure a Washington, D.C. lobbyist and pay over $60,000 to cut through the bureaucracy and fight for a real population count, which was finally recognized by the Bureau of the Census. Unfortunately, we found out that was only a quarter of the battle, and we have now spent additional monies, time and effort to convince the Department of Housing and Urban Development that we are now eligible to be a CDBG entitlement community. We will not receive funds as an entitlement community until 1999, so it is fair to say that for eight years our community has been unable to secure federal monies under the HUD CDBG entitlement program because of an undercount in population in 1990. A conservative estimate of monies lost is $2.5 million, plus another $200,000 in staff time and consulting fees required to convince the federal government of the facts that should have been recognized objectively back in 1990.
Kansas City: In Kansas, cities receive three revenues directly from the State based on their relative share of population. The revenues include monies from 1) a local ad-valorem tax reduction fund, 2) a city-county revenue sharing fund, and 3) a city street and highway fund. During this decade the Citys annual share of these funds, distributed on the basis of population, is $4.7 million. A two percent increase in these funds generates an additional $95,000 per year, or nearly $1 million for the decade. Nearly three-fourths of the monies are received from the highway distribution. It is more difficult to estimate losses from federal programs. CDBG appears to be less impacted. The Kansas City CDBG entitlement is based on a formula that considers age of housing units, poverty rate, and population growth lag. An overall loss in population could increase the CDBG allocation. It could be argued, however, that the population undercount results in a lower poverty rate, and reduces CDBG funding.
Lafayette: Very few taxes in Indiana are distributed solely on the basis of population, as are "sin" taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. This translates into lost revenue of about $4,000 annually. Population is a factor in State road, street and highway distribution, along with highway mileage. We cannot estimate the dollars lost here associated with population. Population is only one factor in many federal programs as well, making it difficult to estimate loss. Our understanding is that declining population is actually a plus in the Community Development Block Grant program as an indicator of "distress."
Long Beach: The failure to include even the recognized population undercount present in the 1990 census has had serious financial repercussions for the City. According to a study of federal funding in 1990, it is estimated that each miscounted person represented a loss of $56 per year. The Los Angeles County Urban Research Unit currently estimates that the value of each "census person" is more on the order of $100 per person per year. The 21,500 missed residents, therefore, represent a likely loss in funding to the City of between $10 million and $15 million (perhaps more) during the period 1990-2000. If the recognized undercount was, in fact, only about half of the true figure, then the loss to the City could be as high as $30 million to $50 million over the decade.
Pembroke Pines: As an upper-middle-income city, there are very few residents in groups that are often undercounted....We dont feel that the failure to reach the traditional undercount groups greatly affected us in 1990.
Pinellas Park: The impact upon federal and State funding received by the City was considered insignificant.
St. Joseph: It would be fair to say that the programs hit hardest would be State funding (gas tax revenues, etc.), followed by State/federal transportation dollars, followed by the CDBG program.
San Francisco: The amount is a very conservative estimate of the adverse financial impact of the undercount on the City because we are unable to determine the total per capita amount the City receives from the State and federal governments. It is known, however, that a number of the formulas used by the federal government to allocate funds in various programs include the number of people who are part of a socioeconomic group for example, those living in poverty. Since such groups are the ones that historically are the most likely to be undercounted, the loss of federal funds in a city with large portions of such populations is particularly profound.
Youngstown: The estimate is based on CDBG, HOME and ESG dollars and an estimated undercount based on a comparison of housing units and population.
Estimated Future Financial Loss to the Cities
Twenty of the cities were able to estimate the amount they would lose in federal and state funds during the first decade of the 21st century if the 2000 census maintains the same level of inaccuracy as that of the 1990 census. Their estimates total $677 million. The loss would range from $227 million in Los Angeles, $184 million in Chicago and $80 million in St. Joseph; to $24.6 million in McAllen and $22.7 million in Covington; to $5 million in Roswell, $1.3 million in Saint Petersburg and $950,000 (State funds only) in Kansas City.
This would average $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 citys 2000 census
count. The table below shows the expected total and per capita loss during the 2000s in
federal and state funds for each city able to make an estimate:
Among the city officials comments on future losses due to an inaccurate 2000 census:
Anaheim: City officials estimate the following program revenue losses for the first decade of the 21st century:
Augusta: Based on recent estimates, we believe that the 2000 census will be 2.5 percent low. We have no idea what the financial impact would be, however.
Caguas: For Census 2000, the Municipality of Caguas is collaborating in the preparation and review of census maps to ensure that new housing developments (built between 1990 and 2000) are included. The statistical area subdivisions (census tracts, block groups) are being reviewed to assure that they are representative of the real socioeconomic characteristics of the different communities in Caguas. This aspect is of special importance in requesting State and federal assistance for low income families.
Charleston: An accurate count can definitely mean more revenue for the City. Every person added to the population count increases the opportunities for non-profits and public entities to qualify for grants and federal assistance. The health of the economy is also affected. The attraction of new business to the area in anticipation of higher volumes of customers or of an accessible employee pool begins with a market strategy based on population counts.
Detroit: The 1990 census final population total for Detroit was 1,027,974. If less than one million Detroit residents are counted in the 2000 census, the following are the three largest negative impacts on City revenues that will come into play:
If Detroits total population drops from 1,027,974 to 990,000 in the 2000 census, the impact from these three primary revenue sources will be significant. In terms of revenues collected at the FY96-97 levels, the losses identified would be:
Utility Tax $ 54,700,000
One-third Reduction in Income Taxes 103,000,000
Reductions in State Revenue Sharing 18,400,000
TOTAL Annual Reduction 176,100,000
In FY96-97, appropriations totaling $1,244,373,075 were authorized to operate tax-supported general fund agencies. In FY96-97 dollars, the immediate annual impact from loss of the above resources would amount to at least a 14.2 percent reduction in general fund revenues.
Henderson: If the same level of inaccuracy were to exist in the 2000 census, we estimate that the impact would be at least three times as great. This estimate is due in part to our rapidly expanding populations. In our initial discussions with the Census Bureau representatives it seems they are attempting to accommodate some of our unique challenges as they craft their count strategy.
Hendersonville: The pre-review for the 2000 census insures that the federal government has a complete address listing. But without post-review, there is no guarantee that all areas will be counted.
Long Beach: The conditions that resulted in Long Beach suffering a significant undercount of its residents in 1990 have not only continued, but have intensified. The City, therefore, remains more likely than many other areas of the country to be adversely affected if sampling is not used for the 2000 census. Test have consistently shown that communities having a large, relatively recent immigrant population, as well as those with a relatively large proportion of its households living in rental units, are especially prone to undercounts. Several indicators support the contention that there is an increased risk of a significant undercount if statistical sampling is not used in 2000. The City, therefore, considers it essential that the 2000 census be as accurate as possible, and has joined in various efforts to ensure this outcome.
Omaha: Electronic sampling will cause Omaha and Nebraska to risk lower capitation reimbursements.
Pembroke Pines: As our population becomes more diverse, an undercount will be an increasing concern....We believe that an undercount in 2000 will cost us at least $7.50 per resident per year in federal funds.
Pinellas Park: If the 2000 census maintains the same level of accuracy as was realized in the 1990 census for Pinellas Park, again we expect the impact upon the community would be considered insignificant.
Plano: Given a proportional undercount in the year 2000, Plano would probably not lose funding in the next decade. This does not mean that the City of Plano is unconcerned about significant census undercounts in the year 2000. This is because rapid growth and development in Plano is adding more than 4,000 new housing units each year. New subdivisions, new streets and new houses and apartments will be constructed almost simultaneously with the 2000 census count. In addition, workers moving to Plano to support the new construction may complicate the census process. For these reasons, we are extremely concerned about the potential for increased inaccuracies in the 2000 census. It is essential, therefore, for the Census Bureau to develop an accurate, expandable database to support the census process.
San Francisco: The impact of the undercount will be greater in the next decade if the Census 2000 reflects the same inaccuracy. The City is more likely than many other areas of the United States to be adversely affected if sampling is not used in Census 2000. Studies have shown that communities having a large, relatively recent immigrant population, as well as those with a relatively large proportion of their households living in rental units, are especially prone to undercounts.
Recent Immigrants: The 1990 census reported that 40.3 percent of the Citys population over the age of five spoke a language other than English at home, an increase from 34.2 percent of the population in 1980 for whom English was not the primary language. The Citys immigrant population continues to increase by even higher percentages. Between the 1980 and 1990 censuses, 54,000 immigrants came to the City. According to the California State Department of Finance, over just seven years (1991-1997), the Citys net immigration has been an additional 66,000 people. Clearly, the population who may not be counted because of language barriers is growing.
Homeless: The Citys significant homeless population also continues to increase. The Census Bureaus efforts in 1990 to count this group resulted in about 2,000 people being found. According to other studies, this number represents an undercount of at least 4,000. Since 1990, the homeless population has grown so that, according to some estimates, on any given night, 6,000 to 8,000 San Franciscans may be homeless. Further, over the course of a year, an estimated 11,000 to 16,000 San Franciscans experience at least one episode of homelessness. To make matters worse, families with children make up roughly 25-30 percent of the homeless population. This means that many children are not being counted. In addition, many homeless San Franciscans suffer from disabilities such as substance abuse, mental illness, or HIV/AIDS, thus being an especially vulnerable segment of a population that is already difficult to enumerate.
Rental Units: In the City, 65 percent of residents rent their homes and 35 percent own their homes, which is the reverse of the percentages nationwide.