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Rejoinder to Anderson and Fienberg

  • Thomas L. Brunell (a1)

Extract

In “History, Myth Making, and Statistics,” Anderson and Fienberg purport to have debunked one of the “myths” opponents of statistically adjusting census counts repeatedly invoke. The authors strive to show that critics have misplaced blame on a computer coding error for artificially inflating the national undercount by more than one million people and producing adjusted state population totals that would have provided justifications for shifting one or two House seats inappropriately. Rather, Anderson and Fienberg argue, an ad hoc decision to collapse the number of post-strata from 1392 to 357 led analysts to produce inaccurate numbers.

Far from discrediting the criticism, however, Anderson and Fienberg provide compelling evidence that both the computer error and the adjustment model itself produced numbers that would have led to a malapportionment of House seats. The authors report the 1990 apportionment based on official census numbers in their Table 1, the apportionment based on the incorrectly adjusted census numbers in their Table 5, and the apportionment based on the “corrected” (no computer error and with 1392 poststrata) adjusted counts in their Table 6. Note that the incorrectly adjusted apportionment differs from the actual apportionment by two seats and the correctly adjusted apportionment differs from the actual by two seats.

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References

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Anderson, Margo J., and Fienberg, Stephen E. 1999. Who Counts? The Politics of Census-Taking in Contemporary America. New York: Russell Sage.
Brown, Lawrence D. 1998. “Chair's Remarks Following Presentation on ‘The Controversy about Sampling in the Census.’Annual Meeting of the American Statistical Association, Dallas.
Sciacca, Joe. 2000. “As a Rebellion, Census Boycott Doesn't Count.” The Boston Herald, April 3, A8.

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Rejoinder to Anderson and Fienberg

  • Thomas L. Brunell (a1)

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