Arkansas underestimated its population by more than 5%, the highest in the United States, according to a census

Up to 5% of Arkansas’ population was not counted in the 2020 census, according to documents released Thursday by the US Census Bureau.

The percentage of Arkansans missed by census efforts was the highest in the nation, with five other states undercounted, the Census Bureau found in its postmortem examination.

The undercounts have raised concerns that states are missing out on their fair share of $1.5 trillion that the federal government will distribute to states over the next decade.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a statement Thursday that the new census figures could be used to adjust funding for federal programs.

“Significant federal dollars have been spent on education and marketing efforts [for the census]”, Hutchinson said through a spokeswoman. “It’s one of the challenges for a growing rural state to keep the count accurate.”

The governor’s office did not respond to questions about how much money the state has spent on census efforts.

The Census Bureau’s post-count survey, which evaluates the success of each decennial census’s population count efforts, found six undercounted states and eight overcounted states. The survey collects responses to the same demographic questions on the census questionnaire from a sample of households and compares the two sets of results to determine what the census missed.

The full survey is available at: www.arkansasonline.com/520censussurvey/.

Census undercounts indicate that people were not counted, while overcounts suggest they were counted more than once, such as children of divorced parents who share custody or people with homes vacation.

Arkansas’ overall population grew from 2010 to 2020, even with the undercount, according to census data released in August. The state added 95,606 residents during the relevant decade, increasing from 2,915,918 to 3,011,524.

However, the survey published on Thursday indicates that more than 150,000 additional Arkansans have not been counted.

Without the increase of 105,800 people in Benton and Washington counties, the state would have seen its first population drop since the 1960 census.

Metropolitan areas of central Arkansas and Jonesboro also saw growth, while cities and delta counties saw some of the biggest demographic impacts, according to 2020 data.

Thursday’s news confirmed what mayors, county judges and local officials have been saying since the first census data began rolling out last year – that people have been missed.

In 2019, Hutchinson formed the 30-member Arkansas Full Count Committee to promote participation in the 2020 census. The committee was made up of state, city, and county officials, as well as citizen representatives and the private sector.

Committee chairman George McGill, mayor of Fort Smith and a former state legislator, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Vice President Shelby Johnson, director of the Arkansas Bureau of Geographic Information Systems, said he didn’t have a chance to digest the Census Bureau’s report Thursday afternoon.

Other members of the Full Count Committee, as well as the Arkansas State Data Center within the Arkansas Economic Development Institute, declined to comment or did not respond to requests. .

The onset of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 affected data collection for the census and post-enumeration survey, said Tim Kennel, the Census Bureau’s deputy division chief for statistical methods in the studies division. ten-year statistics.

Attempts to collect data for the post-census survey in 2020 saw low response rates, Kennel said in a webinar Thursday about the results.

Additionally, colleges and universities closed their campuses and held remote learning in 2020, meaning many students returned home.

“This migration has made it difficult to determine who should be included in the [survey] and that was out of scope because they should have been counted in college dorms or other group quarters,” Kennel said.

Challenges aside, efforts to promote the Arkansas census were widespread, Johnson said.

“It would have been impossible to walk around Arkansas at that time and not have seen census information, or seen an advertisement on television, or heard an advertisement on the radio,” Johnson said. .

Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and Texas have not allocated as many resources as other states to encouraging residents to fill out census forms. Mississippi spent about $400,000 and Illinois allocated $29 million for these efforts.

Arkansas’ estimated 5.04% undercount was the largest of six reported by the Census Bureau. Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas also saw undercounts.

Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Utah all overestimated their populations by between 1.5% and 6.8%, according to the Census Bureau.

Any undercounts or overcounts in the remaining 36 states and the District of Columbia were not statistically significant, the bureau said.

Regionally, the bureau estimates an undercount of 1.85% in the south and an overcount of 1.71% in the northeast.

While Florida and Texas had lower undercounts than Arkansas — 3.5% and 1.9% respectively — both states lost congressional seats, while Arkansas did. much less populated.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota and Rhode Island, overcounts appear to have saved them from losing congressional seats.

The underrated groups have always been racial and ethnic minorities, tenants and young children.

Thursday’s news release did not break down the quality of the 2020 census work at the state level by demographic traits, but a national bulletin released in March showed the black population in the 2020 census had a sub -3.3% net count, compared to nearly 5% for Hispanics and 5.6% for American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations.

Those who identified with another race had a net undercount of 4.3%. The non-Hispanic white population had a net overcoverage of 1.6% and Asians had a net overcoverage of 2.6%, according to the results.

Information for this article was provided by Michael Wines of The New York Times and Michael Schneider of The Associated Press.