Thursday, March 17, 2011

Atlanta 2010 Census Population Seems to Have Been Undercounted

Above, is a scatterplot I made comparing the July 2009 Census Bureau estimated populations of cities with at least 100,000 people (according to the Jul 2009 estimates).

You can look at the spreadsheet I used/created for this here

Missing are the cities with over 1,000,000 people (because they make the rest of the scatterplot too small) as well as those cities with between 100,000 and 1,000,000 people from states the Census Bureau still has to release ( Maine, Massachusetts,Michigan,New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina and West Virginia).

Notice how the data fits very well(even though the populations in July 2009 were slightly different from those in April 2010), with one glaring exception-the city of Atlanta, where, as it so happens, I now reside.

The July 2009 Estimate put Atlanta's population at 540,922. Today's Census 2010 release of Georgia put the April 1, 2010 population of Atlanta at 420,003, just barely up from the April 1, 2000 Census population of 416,474.

Putting aside that it just seems like there MUST have more than a 3,500 person gain based on residential development in Atlanta in the last 10 years, the chances of a city (in this case Atlanta) being more than 6 standard deviations away from the mean (no other city was more than 2.67 standard deviations away from the mean) is 1 in 500 million (assuming the error here is normally distributed, which it looks to be).

That is to say, it seems MUCH more likely that there's either a typo or a serious undercount of Atlanta's population (I tend to think they undercounted in a lot of places and not just Atlanta personally ...)

This is a very serious issue; the difference in population here is enough to account for about 1/6th of a seat in Congress, 2/3 of a seat in the Georgia Senate, and 2.25 seats in the Georgia House of Representatives, not to mention millions in population-based federal block grants.

I would strongly urge Mayor Kasim Reed to sue the Census Bureau over an undercount of Atlanta.

Anyway, all of that being said, there is the possibility that they somehow majorly majorly overlooked the "black flight" phenomenon, as the official 2010 Census numbers show a 17% increase in the white population of Atlanta but a 12% decrease in the black population (a whopping 65% increase in the Asian population, which is probably due largely to expansion of Georgia Tech). More on black flight later.


bizzyb79 said...

I definitely agree. There's absolutely no way that the population could have only risen by 3500 people within a 10 year time frame with all of the housing developments and the large influx of people that has moved into the city over the years. Even with the so called decrease in the black population,"which I haven't noticed," the inner city still grew much more that than 3500 people over a 10 year period.

Julian said...

Very useful comparison graph and spreadsheet. Thank you. Out of 255 cities, only 11 have adjustments from the 2009 estimate greater than 10%. Atlanta's drop is twice the drop of the next largest, Cincinnati. The Atlanta Census report is not credible.

Steven said...

There is something very bizarre going on. How could the the U.S. Census Bureau have over-estimated the city of Atlanta's population by 25%?

So what is the true population? Is it really just over 420,000, or is it closer to the 550,000 estimate that was given out last year?

I recollect reading news stories about how the Atlanta city schools had enrollments of thousands less than used to be the case. Perhaps that was a clue that the population of Atlanta really wasn't growing. Who knows?

I've seen other message boards where some bring up that the census is missing a lot of blacks. But that doesn't make sense. According to the census numbers, Atlanta's white population is now at 36 percent. But wasn't the estimate for the white population to have grown to over 40 percent? That would seem to indicate that any under-count is largely among whites, not blacks.

Slutty said...

Where's Detroit on your scatterplot? They're well under also, though maybe more understandably...

PBJ said...

You're comparing the 2010 Census to 2009 figures from the Population Estimates Program. The huge difference is shocking, but you perhaps it was the population estimate in 2009 that was wrong, not the Census.

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bitkidoku said...

Any updates on the issue? When I google "Atlanta population" I see a sudden drop between 2009-2010. I was curious about the drop and ended up in your blog. Did you learn why is there such drop?