Why the Census Needs Adjustment

The Census is going to be wrong, according to this column from <em>The Washington Post</em>. Statistical adjustments help get undercounts closer to reality, but many opponents prevent their use.
May 5, 2010, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Census adjustment has long been a political flash point because the census has winners and losers; an undercount in New York and Chicago could mean fewer members of Congress from blue cities and more from red exurbs. But resistance to adjustment is only partially driven by political interest. It also represents a worrisome mathematical Luddism; adjustment opponents depict statistical estimates as hunches dressed up in fancy mathematical clothes or even plots designed to hijack the census for political ends.

Among the opponents is Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who withdrew as the Obama administration's nominee to be commerce secretary in part because of disagreements over the census. Gregg's take on adjustment: 'You take guesses based on what you think is the best political outcomes that you want, rather than counting people who actually exist.'"

The question of whether or not to allow statistical adjustments of Census counts has been in contention for decades. But column author and mathematician Jordan Ellenberg says without them the Census will continue to paint an inaccurate picture of American demographics.

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Published on Saturday, May 1, 2010 in The Washington Post
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