2020 Census Undercounted US Population by Nearly 19 Million

The 2020 census undercounted the country’s population by 18.8 million people, the Census Bureau said on Thursday, acknowledging that the count had underrepresented Black, Latino and Indigenous residents.

At the same time, the census overcounted the number of white and Asian residents, the bureau said.

Robert L. Santos, the bureau’s director, said that despite the omissions, the results were consistent with recent censuses.

“This is notable, given the unprecedented challenges of 2020,” he said in a statement. “But the results also include some limitations – the 2020 census undercounted many of the same population groups we have historically undercounted, and it overcounted others.”

The US population grew to 323.2 million, the bureau said on Thursday, a 5 percent increase from 2010.

“We remain proud of the job we accomplished in the face of immense challenges,” Mr. Santos said. “And we are ready to work with the stakeholders and the public to fully leverage this enormously valuable resource.”

The 2020 census faced a series of challenges. The coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the count just as it was beginning in April 2020, forcing the bureau to extend its work by nearly two months. Later in the year, wildfires in the West and coastal hurricanes upended the bureau’s work just as door-knockers were fanning out to survey millions of households that had not filled out their forms.

The Trump administration later moved up the deadline to finish counting, raising concerns about an undercount. The problems led many experts, including some senior Census Bureau officials, to worry that the final count would be fatally flawed.

In September, a 59-page analysis of the 2020 census commissioned and reviewed by the American Statistical Association said the count appeared accurate enough for its overriding constitutional purpose: reallocating the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.

But the experts who drafted the report limited their findings to the overall national tally and counts in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Much more study would be needed, they said, to gauge the reliability of local population totals and characteristics such as race and ethnicity that are vital parts of every census.

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