CORY WILLIAMS and MIKE SCHNEIDER – Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — Detroit sued the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday over last year’s population estimates that show it lost an additional 7,100 residents, opening another front against the agency in a fight over how the city’s residents were counted for the last two years.
Mayor Mike Duggan told reporters the city wants the Census Bureau to disclose how it prepared estimates of Detroit’s population loss. Duggan argued that the bureau went against its own policy by refusing to tell Detroit how the city’s assessments were calculated and by not letting the problems go this year.
The lawsuit appears to be the first lawsuit challenging census results since the release of the 2020 census data, which has traditionally been the basis of annual population estimates.
The Census Bureau’s refusal this year to consider evidence that 2021 population estimates were wrong perpetuates racial inequality and threatens the city’s reputation, Detroit’s lawsuit says.
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“The Bureau’s failure to address evidence of its inaccurate 2021 estimate is costing the city and its residents millions of dollars in funding to which they are entitled, while threatening to upend the city in a historic way by spreading the narrative that Detroit is losing population,” the lawsuit says.
In an emailed statement, the Census Bureau said it does not comment on legal proceedings.
The bureau two years ago temporarily suspended its program that allows local governments to challenge population estimates so that more resources can be allocated to the once-a-decade census. The program is not expected to resume until next year.
Detroit’s lawsuit followed the city’s appeal of 2020 census data that showed Detroit had 639,111 residents, while a 2019 estimate of the city’s population was 670,052.
Undercounting census results and population estimates could cost Detroit tens of millions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade. Over the past decade or so, the city has received about $3.5 billion annually in federal funding tied to census data.
“We have absolutely no idea what formula they might have used,” Duggan said Tuesday. “We don’t know what formula they used because they won’t tell us.”
Duggan said 14 new apartment buildings opened in Detroit last year. DTE Energy said 7,544 new utility accounts were added, and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said new service was added to 6,964 residential units, he added.
The U.S. Postal Service also said it was delivering mail to an additional 4,475 residences in the city, Duggan said.
“It is now clear that the US Census Bureau data is completely out of touch with reality,” he said. “We’re drawing a line in the sand and we’re going to try one way or another to get these guys to be accurate. »
“I think the formula will show — it will show an error in their calculations, but if we get a formula that proves they’re right, we’ll admit they’re right,” Duggan added.
Due to delays in releasing the 2020 Census data, the Census Bureau broke with tradition and did not rely solely on Census numbers to form the basis of its 2021 US population estimates. Instead, statisticians “blended” the 2020 census numbers with other data sets to form the basis of annual population estimates used to allocate $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year and measure annual population change through 2030.
Detroit is one of several major cities challenge their numbers from the 2020 census, following a nationwide census in which the Census Bureau found that a higher percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics were undercounted than in the previous decade. About 77% of Detroit residents are African-American, and Latinos make up nearly 8% of the population.
Leaders in Michigan’s largest city have been questioning the 2020 census results since December 2021, when they released a report that said more than 8% of occupied homes in 10 Detroit neighborhoods may have been undercounted.
Duggan said in a letter to the Census Bureau that insufficient resources and enumerators were devoted to counting Detroit’s population, resulting in the number of unoccupied homes being undercounted, which could add up to tens of thousands of residents who are not being seen.
Schneider reported from Orlando, Florida.
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