City aims to improve census accuracy 

It’s 2010 and the government is ready to count you.

The U.S. Census Bureau threw a rally at City Hall on Monday to launch its 2010 count of the nation’s population, vowing to do everything possible to get an accurate count of San Francisco residents.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that every person in the nation be counted once every 10 years. The information gathered by the census is confidential and cannot be accessed by anyone for 72 years — meaning the personal information collected today will not be released until 2082.

The once-a-decade count has become the object of controversy in The City because city officials believe San Francisco’s population was undercounted by some 100,000 in 2000, when the official report listed 776,733 residents. The count is important to city coffers because it determines the amount of funding the federal government doles out for some programs.

If indeed the count was indeed that inaccurate, it has cost The City nearly $300 million in funding over the last 10 years, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said he will introduce legislation today that would require single-room occupancy hotels to open their doors to census workers. The hotels, which in San Francisco often provide housing for the poor, non-English speakers, the elderly or formerly homeless people, have proved difficult for census workers to access in the past, in part because SROs do not always provide mailboxes for every tenant, and also because hotel managers sometimes have refused entrance to census workers.

San Francisco officials believe The City’s population to be at minimum 810,000 and probably much higher, said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the city-funded group SF 2010 Census. She said if the count comes in lower, it will indicate that there was likely another undercount.

City officials established an SF Complete Count Committee, comprising leaders from various communities, to strategize about how best to reach every person in The City, Pon said.

In March, a census survey will go out to every household asking 10 questions about their families. Between April and June, about 2,500 census workers will fan across The City to try to reach anyone who has not returned a survey.


Making it count

776,733 Population of San Francisco in 2000

810,000 Minimum estimate of San Francisco population

100,000 Estimate of population undercount

$300 million Estimate of undercount’s cost in public funding

2,500 Census workers counting The City this year

10 Years every census happens

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