Census 2000

April, 2001
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D. A. Freedman and K. W. Wachter

The census has been taken every ten years since 1790. Counts are used to apportion Congress and to redistrict states. Furthermore, census data are the basis for allocations of federal tax money to cities and other local governments. For such purposes, the geographical distribution of the population matters, rather than counts for the nation as a whole. The census turns out to be remarkably good, despite the generally bad press reviews. Statistical adjustment is unlikely to improve the accuracy: adjustment may well put in more error than it takes out. In this article, we sketch procedures for taking the census, evaluating it, and making adjustments. Pointers to the literature will be found at the end of the article, including citations to the main arguments for and against adjustment.

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