WASHINGTON — Census-takers made up to 25.7 million errors in 1990, congressional auditors estimated Thursday.
The General Accounting Office issued a report saying millions of Americans were counted twice, listed as living in the wrong place, counted when they shouldn’t have been or not counted at all.
The errors caused the count to fall 5.3 million short of the true population, according to the Census Bureau’s own estimate.
The GAO report said the shortfall “obscures the true magnitude of the error in the Census because, while millions of persons were missed by the Census, millions of other persons were improperly counted.”
The GAO’s estimate amounts to more than 10 percent of the 248.7 million Americans counted last year.
The Census Bureau’s own error-checking shows blacks and Hispanics were most likely to be missed by census-takers.
Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher in July decided against correcting the Census. He said efforts to do so might backfire and make the count less accurate.
That decision drew protest from big cities and states that stood to have higher population counts if the Census were corrected. More than 30 governments and organizations have joined in lawsuits seeking to force the government to replace the Census count with an estimate.
The GAO in June had issued preliminary findings that the Census contained 14.1 million errors. The number doesn’t include mistakes such as counting people at the wrong address.
The agency’s final report broadened the definition of an error to include mistakes such as counting a family as living in their Florida vacation condo rather than their home in suburban Detroit.
Where a person is counted as living is important because the Census influences political power and billions of dollars in federal spending. The higher an area’s population, the more representatives it sends to Congress and the state legislature, and the more federal aid it receives.
The auditors said 10.2 million people were included in the Census when they shouldn’t have been, and 15.5 million were missed by counters.