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Partisan Politics at Work: Sampling and the 2000 Census

  • Margo Anderson (a1) and Stephen E. Fienberg (a2)

Extract

In his preceding article, Brunell offers some background on Census 2000, the use of sampling and adjustment in a census context, the magnitude of the differential undercount from prior censuses, and the debate over the use of sample-based adjustments to the count. Much of his description of Census 2000 is correct, as far as it goes. It is what he leaves out that is problematic. His omissions lead him to draw the wrong conclusions about the undercount and the methodology for correcting it.

The origins of the peculiar American institution of the decennial census can be traced to the Founding Fathers and the federal Constitution of 1787. When the leaders of the American Revolution met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and decided to apportion seats in the new House of Representatives among the states “according to their respective numbers,” they invented a fundamental new instrument of republican government. The infant U.S. government of the Confederation Era had trouble raising taxes and making decisions, in part because representatives in the Continental Congress voted by states and the states were of very disparate sizes and populations. The framers recognized the need for another policy-making mechanism that took account of the fact that states deserved different numbers of representatives and, hence, votes in the House and Electoral College. The answer was the census, a periodic count of the population and consequent redistribution of House seats and economic resources to reflect the relative sizes of the populations of the states.

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References

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Partisan Politics at Work: Sampling and the 2000 Census

  • Margo Anderson (a1) and Stephen E. Fienberg (a2)

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