Falling through the cracks
The census is not perfect, and as a result some people do not get counted. The Census Bureau estimates that the 2000 count missed nearly 3 million people, mostly minorities, poor people, and children. People in rural areas, inner cities and homeless shelters are often accidentally left uncounted because they are harder to reach. Many Americans living overseas were not counted for the same reason.
Overseas, only Americans who are military or government personnel are included in the U.S. census. Utah, for example, had over 14,000 residents living temporarily overseas in 2000 as Mormon missionaries; they were not included in Census 2000.
In the distribution of congressional seats according to population, Utah fell 56 residents short of gaining one more seat in Congress. Instead, this seat went to North Carolina. On January 11, 2001 the state of Utah sued the Census Bureau in federal court, and is trying to have this Congressional seat transferred from North Carolina to Utah.
Fewer people were left uncounted in 2000 than in 1990, but the impact of the undercount is far-reaching. If some segments of the population are undercounted, the areas where these groups live will get less representation and fewer federal dollars than they deserve.
When the homeless are not counted in the census, cities get less federal funding to support social programs such as shelters and health clinics. If the city cannot show that it has people who need these services, the federal government will not provide money to support them.
Census 2000 tried to count these people by distributing census questionnaires at housing shelters and health care clinics and on the Internet.
There are two types
of census questionnaires. One is the "short form" which gathers
information about characteristics such as age, sex, and race. The other
is the "long form" which also collects information about marital
status, education level, disabilities, economic status, and housing.