Census likely undercounted Arkansas population more than any other state

The bureau said eight states were likely overcounted: Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Utah.

Published: May 20, 2022 5:38pm

Updated: May 21, 2022 2:42am

(The Center Square) -

The U.S. Census Bureau said it likely undercounted the population of Arkansas by more than 5% in 2020.

The bureau released its post-enumeration survey Thursday, revealing that 14 states were estimated to have had either an undercount or an overcount it considered “statistically significant.”

Arkansas experienced the largest undercount at -5.04%, according to the bureau. Other states with estimated undercounts were Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

The bureau said eight states were likely overcounted: Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Utah.

Arkansas’ total census count was 2,929,000. The bureau estimated it slightly overcounted the state’s population back in 2010 by 0.41%, but said the comparison could not be considered definitive since methods used to estimate errors have improved since the 2010 census.

The fate of trillions of federal dollars rides on the census results, as noted in the American Journal of Public Health’s publication on how inaccuracies in the 2020 census enumeration could create a misalignment between states’ needs. The consequences of miscounting state populations mean potential loss of federal funding, or, on the flip side, too much funding.

At least 140 federal grant and direct assistance programs distribute billions of dollars every year based on data from the U.S. Census, according to the bureau.

Errors in census population counts also impact congressional appointments and district sizes, as noted by the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

Seven states lost seats in the U.S. House of Representatives following the 2020 census, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Only one of the states that experienced an undercount, Illinois, lost a seat. Six other states gained seats in the House, but none of those states experienced an overcount, according to data from the bureau.

Overall, the bureau said the South region was undercounted by -1.85%, while the Northeast region was overcounted by 1.71%.

“Achieving an accurate count for all 50 states and D.C. is always a difficult endeavor, and these results suggest it was difficult again in 2020, particularly given the unprecedented challenges we faced,” Census Bureau Director Robert L. Santos said. “It is important to remember that the quality of the 2020 Census total population count is robust and consistent with that of recent censuses. However, we know there is still more work to do in planning future censuses to ensure equitable coverage across the United States and we are working to overcome any and all obstacles to achieve that goal.”

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