City officials to push for census adjustments

June 15, 1991|By James Bock

City officials are drafting a letter urging the U.S. secretary of commerce to adjust the 1990 census to make up for an estimated 36,000 Baltimoreans missed in the count.

Adjustment would boost Baltimore's population to 772,000 and mean millions of dollars in extra federal and state aid to the financially strapped city over this decade, officials said.

It would also give Baltimore claim to a little more political power in Annapolis than it might otherwise get when the legislature is redistricted this fall.

Finally, the city would again rank as Maryland's largest jurisdiction -- with 8,000 more residents than Montgomery County, which surpassed the city for the first time after the 1990 count.

However, the new population estimates released Thursday by theCensus Bureau offer absolutely no guarantee that Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher will adjust the figures. He must decide whether to do so by July 15.

Jai P. Ryu, the city census coordinator, said he helped draft a letter yesterday from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to Mr. Mosbacher urging adjustment of the figures to compensate for the undercount of blacks and other minorities.

"The city has done its best. The Census Bureau has done its best. Nevertheless, a serious undercount has happened. . . . Adjustment is necessary," said Dr. Ryu, a Loyola College demographer.

"If statistical adjustment can produce a population increase of 30,000 or more, that would result in millions of federal and state dollars" in additional aid to the city, Dr. Ryu said. Aid is often based on population and other census data.

City officials have said the 1980 census, which missed an estimated 29,000 Baltimoreans, cost Baltimore $800 per uncounted person a year in aid, or $230 million over the decade. But Dr. Ryu said that the estimate was probably high and that federal and state sources don't provide as big a part of city revenues as they did in the 1980s.

Both Mayor Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer have backed adjusting the census.

Mr. Schmoke told a congressional hearing last fall that "we can no longer expect cities and states to adequately take care of people that the federal government denies -- through the use of census numbers -- even exist."

Baltimore would be the biggest beneficiary in Maryland of a censusadjustment. The state's population would increase by nearly 88,000 to 4,869,000, a 1.8 percent rise. Other above-average gainers would be Washington County and some rural counties.

Even if the count is changed, the city still may stand to lose political clout in Annapolis. The city now has nine full legislative districts. The 1990 count entitles it to only 7.23 districts; *T adjustment would raise that number to 7.45.

Outside Baltimore, "The impact on any one jurisdiction . . . is quite negligible," said Michel A. Lettre, assistant director of the Maryland Office of Planning.

The Census Bureau released the adjusted population numbers after making a nationwide post-census survey of 156,000 households. The bureau compared survey results with the actual head count to estimate how many U.S. residents were missed.

Certain groups were overlooked more often than others, the survey showed. For example, 2.1 percent of the population was missed overall, but 5.4 percent of black men went uncounted.

The bureau divided the population into 1,392 different profiles based on residents' geographical region, race, sex, age and other factors, said David Whitford, chief of the bureau's research coordination branch.

Each profile was assigned a code and an adjustment factor. A group whose members were counted accurately would rate a 1, a hard-to-count profile would get a factor above 1, and a group that was overcounted would have a factor below 1.

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