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, predicts the chairman of the House committee that oversees the census.
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, Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, D-Ohio.
But she refused to commit herself to any figure before the release of the official figures on 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.
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 will give to President Bush at the end of the year.
Those official state-by-state figures are used to allocate congressional representation among the states.
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 under-counting of minorities and the poor, particularly in urban areas like New York, Washington and Detroit.
Under an agreement reached in a lawsuit by New York City and other cities trying to force a statistical adjustment, Mosbacher must announce the administration's decision on adjusting the census by next July 15.
The Commerce Department's inspector general is also continuing to investigate the possibility of organized fraud involving falsified reports.
Bryant made little mention of the reports of fraudulent counts, instead stressing the current operation, including the rechecking of housing units nationwide to determine if the bureau's count of dwellings was accurate. More than 20 million dwellings were rechecked, Bryant told the subcommittee.
"We haven't found much that we haven't counted," she said, although she conceded that the bureau's maps had occasionally misplaced housing units.