July 20, 2008

City Helping Census Bureau On 2010 Count

Sunday, July 20, 2008
Staff Writer

Tyler city officials want to make sure the 2010 U.S. Census is as accurate as possible. So, they’re helping the Bureau collect mountains of data two years ahead of time.

“It’s a lot of work. A lot of work,” said Barbara Holly, planning director for the city of Tyler.

Her department is taking part in a project called the 2010 Dicenniel Census Local Update of Census Addresses, or LUCA for short. Through the LUCA project, the planning department tracked down and listed every known address within the city and sent it to the Bureau. Altogether, 42,412 addresses were sent. The Bureau will take that number and multiply it by the estimated population household rate of 2.74 people. When you take into account an estimated 6.4 percent vacancy rate, the total estimated population of Tyler ends up at 108,772 people.

“That is within 300-400 people of what this department has been estimating, based on building permit data,” Ms. Holly said.

The Bureau asks that communities participate in LUCA, to not only ensure accurate household counts, but also to identify hard-to-reach and hard-to-count populations within the communities.

“An example would be homeless populations,” Ms. Holly said. “What we’ve done in the past is to take toiletries to areas with a known homeless community and tell them, ‘We’re giving out toiletries to people who don’t have a place to stay.’ Then, we ask them to take the (census) survey.”

She said the Hispanic community is another hard-to-reach population. Even though the census is completely confidential, Ms. Holly said Hispanics are generally very wary of giving their household information to the government.

“Maybe they’re afraid of it. They could think, maybe my Green Card is not good,” she said.

When the city conducted its demographic and population survey in 2005, it found a new way to get an accurate count of residents — through the school district rosters. Ms. Holly said that Population and Survey Analysts, the demographic consulting firm the city hired to complete the survey, regularly checks school enrollment numbers to find out how many people live within a school district or city limits.

“Schools are required by law to educate students, regardless of their legal status,” Ms. Holly said.

So, the city took that number, along with the estimated household populations, new building permits and demolitions, and figured out its population. Since 2005, the city has done its own population projections on a regular basis using this data.

“I’m interested in doing that, at least every quarter,” Ms. Holly said. “We do a pretty straight-line projection. We do it based on what Population and Survey Analysts did, and we count any new permit coming in and any demolition, and we apply the persons per household, and that’s how we generate our numbers.”

Those numbers conflict with the Census Bureau’s annual estimated population for Tyler, which for July 2007 was set at 96,451. The contradiction is easy to explain, Ms. Holly said.

“Every July they issue an update to their (2000 census) estimate, and it’s really just an estimate. They haven’t done any work on the ground,” she said.

In the 2010 census, she said, it’s even more important that the city help the federal government get the most accurate population count possible.

“The big reason that people need to try to be mindful of this is because every human you miss on the census is going to cost you thousands in federal funding,” she said. “All of the allocations that are sent to the state are based on population count. All of those states that have hard to count populations, those with high illegal immigration rates, like California, Texas and Arizona, they can be in real trouble if they aren’t proactive and work with the Census Bureau.”

Ms. Holly urged residents to pay attention when their census forms come in the mail in 2010, and to rest assured that their information will be kept strictly confidential and never used against them.

“It’s a benefit to your community, and all of their information is confidential,” she said. “Everything is super-secret, because everyone is guaranteed anonymity. All we need to know is not whether you inhabit here legally, it’s just whether you inhabit here.”

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