Five million uncounted

July 31, 1991|By The Miami Herald

AS WITH everything that really counts in Washington, the eye-glazing debate over statistical corrections to the 1990 census was mostly about power and money. More specifically: your money and other people's power over your money. It's too important an issue to be settled solely by politicians.

When Congress doles out some $59 billion annually for Head Start, social services, nutrition, homeless aid and many other programs, the main determinant of how much cash comes to states is the census.

And if the census is wrong about these little details? Tough.

That is why passions run high over the small decimal places in the census' decimal tallies.

The principle -- that undercounted minorities and immigrants deserve better attention from the enumerators and grant makers -- warrants a thorough hearing.

But even if the courts decide that the census is best left unadjusted, the matter should not end there. Congress should look at more sophisticated ways to dole out federal dollars and a more scientific census in the year 2000 or sooner.

The nation will spend the next 10 years fighting over the admitted flaws in the 1990 census. In the meantime, a less passionate discussion also should be addressing how to improve the method, and the results, the next time around.

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