WASHINGTON -- The 1990 population count is likely to fall about 2 million people short of the Census Bureau's earlier estimate of 250.2 million, the chairman of the House committee that oversees the census predicted yesterday.
The director of the Census Bureau, Barbara Everitt Bryant, who appeared before the House Post Office and Civil Service Subcommittee on Census and Population, did not disagree with the analysis of the latest available data by the committee's chairman, Representative Thomas C. Sawyer, D-Ohio.
But she refused to commit herself to any figure before the release of the official figures Dec. 31.
In addition, yesterday's hearing for the first time broached the question of whether some of the 300,000 enumerators or their supervisors purposely falsified forms as the census deadline approached.
Newspaper articles in Chicago and northern New Jersey indicated that enumerators had been instructed to finish their work by creating one-person households when they could not get to residents or neighbors.
An investigation by the Commerce Department's inspector general is under way, census officials said. But it is unlikely that this investigation will have much effect on the final population totals that Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. will give to President Bush at the end of the year.
Those official state-by-state figures are used to allocate congressional representation.
The figure of about 248 million would be at the low end of the bureau's pre-census population estimates, which ranged from 247.7 million to 252.3 million.
The discrepancy between the 248 million figure and the widespread expectation of 250 million could increase the pressure for a statistical adjustment of the final population count to reflect disproportionate undercounting of minorities and the poor, particularly in urban areas like New York, Washington and Detroit.
[Ms. Bryant also said many population count challenges were likely to be dismissed because local officials tried to pass off vacant buildings, empty lots and other uninhabited places as occupied housing units, the Los Angeles Times reported.]
Challenges to the bureau's preliminary figures came from the nation's 51 largest cities, including Baltimore.