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Gulf Coast Worried About 2010 Census

By Ed O'Keefe

A coalition of community and civil rights leaders from the Gulf Coast region is asking Congress to keep close tabs on how the Census Bureau counts Americans displaced almost four years ago by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the latest regional concern about next year's census that has been laid before lawmakers.

Leaders of Northeastern and Midwestern states regularly complain that the census undercounts their populations because of "snowbirds" from their states who spend part of the year in the warmer South. Utah officials argue that the census should count the estimated 13,000 state residents who are temporarily living in other states or overseas as Mormon missionaries.

The arguments are parochial, but the stakes are huge: Population figures compiled during the census will help determine the distribution of at least $300 billion in federal funding to state and local governments for roads, schools, hospitals and other programs.

The census responds with the same message: It will follow the same basic principle that it has since the first head count in 1790, recording people where they are living as of Census Day, which in 2010 will be April 1.

"To do an accurate census, you have to apply the same methodologies across the population, or they may be skewed," said Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner.

Roughly 311,800 people now live in New Orleans, down from the 484,674 who lived there before the storms. City officials are so concerned about a potential undercount that starting next week a staffer will be devoted full time to local census issues, according to a city spokesman.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | August 5, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Census, From The Pages of The Post  
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