Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Every New Yorker counts in 2010 census

Featuring the NYSDC's own Bob Scardamalia! Oh, yeah, and Warren Brown.

August 17, 2007

Every New Yorker counts in 2010 census: Federal funding, Congress seats at risk if state population comes up short by Dan Wiessner

Billions of dollars in federal funding and some of New York's seats in Congress could be lost if county officials don't take steps to ensure that everyone is counted in the 2010 census, experts said Thursday.
Population growth in the state has been below national rates for decades. From 2000 to July of last year, the country's population increased by 6.4 percent, while New York's went up only 1.7 percent, to about 19 million. Florida saw an increase of 13.2 percent, to about 18 million.
If the trend continues, the Sunshine State will overtake New York as the third-most populous in the United States before the '10 count. (California at 36.5 million and Texas at 23.5 million have the most people.)
This means the state could lose billions in federal funds and two seats in the House of Representatives, according to Robert Scardamalia, a demographer with the state-run Empire State Development Corp. New York has lost 10 House seats since 1980 and now has only 29.
"This is a troubling trend but there are things we can do to mitigate these figures," said Sean Silvernial of the state Association of Counties. "We need to become more involved, as leaders of our communities, in the state's effort to ensure a full and accurate count in 2010."
The U.S. census is based on housing information. Census officials use postal records to compile a master list of addresses throughout the country — there are currently about 120 million — and then mail questionnaires to every address asking for demographic information.
"The census doesn't really care about population, which sounds odd, but they care about housing units," Scardamalia said. "The risk for New York is there are an awful lot of addresses we can't find."
He said this method is open to error for several reasons. It's difficult to keep track of single-family homes that are converted into businesses or multiple apartments or rented out to several people. Keeping tabs on new homes and buildings in areas of rapid growth such as Orange County is also a challenge, he said.
Housing records might also not be reflective of the migration of college students, prisoners and people who live in nursing homes or community residences. Local officials can check potential miscounts by delving into phone and other utility records and keeping track of building and demolition permits and mobile-home placements, Scardamalia said.
Since 2005, only 12 of the country's 3,100 counties have challenged the yearly estimates the census provides, according to Warren Brown of Cornell University. Of those 12, seven were in New York.
But counties can only challenge figures once they've been released. The only opportunity local officials have to directly influence the tally is an optional program that allows them to review and update the Census Bureau's list of housing units.
New York City did this during the 2000 census and came up with 369,000 addresses that the Census Bureau missed — nearly 10 percent of the city's entire housing stock — and the population was boosted by 164,000.
"What would be ideal is to have an ongoing register of all living quarters within your jurisdiction, updated with building permits or certificates of occupancy," said Brown, who is also a liaison between census officials and the state.
The Census Bureau also checks for population shifts by subtracting deaths from births and looking for address changes on tax returns and Medicare enrollment forms. But, Brown said, discrepancies likely occur when officials try to track immigration from abroad and migration of military personnel and young adults beginning their careers.

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