City plans challenge on census estimates

May 02, 2002|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Convinced that an estimate of a continued sharp decline in Baltimore's population is off-base, city officials are planning a formal challenge to the U.S. Census Bureau figures released this week.

Census officials - acknowledging "some degree of uncertainty" in the first post-census 2000 estimates for more than 3,000 jurisdictions nationwide - say they would welcome added data from the city and would issue a corrected estimate if the information warrants it.

"To let that estimate go unchallenged does damage to the progress we've been making," Mayor Martin O'Malley said.

O'Malley said he "absolutely" expects the Census Bureau to revise its estimates for the city after reviewing the challenge. He said he expects that the revisions will show that the city's population was "at least the same" as reported in the 2000 census, or slightly higher.

On Monday, the bureau estimated that the city's population declined by 15,944, or 2.4 percent, to 635, 210 in the 15 months between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2001. The rate of decline of about 1,000 residents a month was greater than the average rate during the 1990s.

During that decade, the city lost 84,860 people, the most of any city in the country, according to the 2000 census. But the Census Bureau had estimated before the count that the decline would be 20,000 more than that over the decade.

O'Malley points to that discrepancy as one indication that the census estimate is exaggerated. Other indications include recent increases in taxes related to real estate transactions and projections by a consortium of planners that the population will increase by mid-decade, he said.

Officials are "going to try to put together an overwhelming case with every piece of data we can get" to persuade the Census Bureau to revise its estimate, said Stephen Kearney, O'Malley's communications director.

Baltimore is the only jurisdiction to say that it will challenge its an estimate, census spokesman Robert Bernstein said.

But it is not the only place to complain about the numbers. Officials also are complaining in Iowa, where 70 percent of the state's counties reportedly lost population.

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