New York City to challenge 2010 Census figures

While 2010 Census figures have shown population drops in places like Chicago and St. Louis, New York City gained population in the 2000s. However, some think the Census undercounted the population growth:

Apoplectic city leaders Thursday scrambled for words to convey their shock after Census numbers seemed to lowball Gotham’s population growth since 2000.

The figures show the city grew only 2.1 percent, to 8,175,133. Mayor Michael Bloomberg contended that a 0.1% increase — a mere 1,343 people — of Queens residents and a wee 1.6 percent rise in Brooklynites “doesn’t make any sense.” The city will challenge the findings, though some observers suggested a surge in harder-to-count recent immigrants and mobile, elusive young people could in part explain a possible undercount…

Joe Salvo, NYC’s chief demographer, expressed disbelief that just 166,855 more people were added to the city, when city data showed that 170,000 new housing units had been built since 2000.

The Census Bureau will be accepting challenges starting in June. New York City last appealed its count in 1990…

The Census Bureau agrees. “The pattern in New York City is like that seen in many other large cities – higher rates of growth in suburbs than in urban cores,” the Bureau said in a statement.

Just because more housing units were built during the 2000s doesn’t not necessarily mean that the population should have gone up more. I wonder if these NYC officials have more data or evidence on which they would base their claim.

The article also notes the consequences of these figures. On one hand, federal money and Congressional seats depend on population counts. Particularly in a time of economic crisis, losing money because of an undercount would mean that the city will have to fill some financial gaps. On the other hand, there is the matter of “civic pride.” A sociologist describes this dynamic:

Unacknowledged is that modest growth injured the “pride of place” in an immodest metropolis that likes to be perceived as ever increasingly majestic and magnetic, said John Logan, a Brown University sociology professor. As Chicago winced when it fell from the nation’s second largest city to third, NY is similarly loathe to lose any ground on growth. “Some see the numbers as a sign of how good you are,” said Logan, “but that’s a mistake.”

Measuring the status of a community just by numbers is tricky, particularly when the numbers are not as strong as one would like. But American communities like to see growth – losing population (or perhaps even being stagnant) is often construed as a failure.

Even with this (undercounted?) population growth, New York City still has a sizable population lead on the next largest city: NYC has more than 4 million more people than Chicago.

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