State officials say census undercounts California by 1.5 million

Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, discusses the first results of the 2010 Census during a press conference December 21, 2010 in Washington, DC.
Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, discusses the first results of the 2010 Census during a press conference December 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

State officials say the US Census count announced last week is short about 1.5 million Californians. The Census, though, is standing by its Golden State tally.

The US Census found California’s population grew by 10 percent – about the national average – to just over 37 million people. But California’s Department of Finance says that’s 1.5 million short. The state used birth and death certificates, tax returns, school enrollment numbers and other statistics to come up with its population numbers.

Arnold Jackson of the US Census says the state’s numbers are estimates, not “a complete, physical on-the-ground count.” He says there will be differences.

"Reasonable, well-trained, dedicated people will disagree on something that is as massive and elusive as counting every person in this country or in the state of California," says Jackson.

He says the census did its own estimate of California’s population before sending out Census forms. He says the difference between the estimate and the actual count was 9,000 people – far fewer than the 1.5 million the state alleges were missed.

An accurate count is important to a cash-strapped California that needs every federal dollar it’s entitled to.

No state has successfully challenged census numbers, though local communities, including San Francisco, have convinced the Census to change its count.

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