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Census samples suggest minority undercount
The U.S. Census Bureau on Friday released controversial new figures for the 2000 Census, mathematically adjusted to rectify counting errors. The numbers indicate Minnesota had the most accurate count compared to other states. Still, the numbers suggest some 14,000 people, all minorities, weren't counted.

St. Paul, Minn. — The new numbers can be seen as a way of tying up loose ends in a very complicated census process. However, with potentially billions of dollars in federal money distributed on a population basis there could be a lot at stake.

The Census Bureau estimates it missed just under 14,000 people in its head count of Minnesota's 4.9 million residents two years ago. The discrepancy amounts to a .28 percent error, which, says State Demographer Tom Gillaspy, is pretty close.

"The next lowest state is Missouri at .45 - nearly than twice the level of undercount and even that's very low," Gillaspy said. "So Minnesota is really remarkable level of low undercount by national and historical standards."

All of the adjustment comes in the form of adding to the minority population. In fact, the Bureau adjusted the state's white population downward by almost 500 people. Will Craig, associate director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, says while it's troubling the census misses a large number of people, the discrepancy in Minnesota is relatively small.

"I think it's just great. We're the best voting state in the country. We have the best response rate to the census" said Craig, who also chaired the Minneapolis committee charged with encouraging citizens to fill out the census forms.

Craig says since many of the blacks and Hispanics that have come to the state in the past ten years are new immigrants, the high census response rate indicates a level of comfort living here.

"The fact they have come, felt at home, felt adjusted, climatized, welcomed," Craig said. "I think that shows in the very positive response compared to other parts of the country."

The Census Bureau released the adjusted numbers reluctantly. It fought to keep from giving the numbers out, but a federal appeals court ordered their release. The bureau originally adjusted the numbers to make up for an admitted undercount of about 3.3 million people nationwide. But afterwards officials said the adjusted numbers are flawed and shouldn't be used.

Bureau officials now say they can't vouch for the accuracy of the adjusted numbers. The undercount in the Twin Cities is much higher than the state as a whole. Minneapolis has a gap of 1.4 percent and St. Paul's is just under one percent.

Minneapolis joined a lawsuit by many large cities challenging the accuracy of the Census numbers. City Planning Director Chuck Ballentine says he'll look at the adjusted count and talk with minority citizens to gauge their accuracy.

"In past decades it has been the case that in complicated places to count like central cities like Minneapolis or St. Paul you've got hard to enumerate populations that often get missed," Ballentine said. "This is a step forward. Whether it's the complete answer - we're going to have to assess that and if we have any other remedies we're going to have to explore that both as an individual city and with other cities that are similarly affected."

The Supreme Court ruled the adjusted numbers can't be used to determine congressional apportionment. But the controversy over which set of numbers to use for other purposes will continue.

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