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Accuracy of US Census

Accuracy of US Census

Posted: 2 Aug 2005 5:09AM GMT
Classification: Query
How common are errors in the US Census? Is there an estimate of what percent of the population doesn't show up on each census?

Re: Accuracy of US Census

Posted: 2 Aug 2005 10:55PM GMT
Classification: Query
As anyone who does extensive Census research will attest, there are a number of "errors" on the sheets. Since humans do the enumeration, there are all sorts of errors of hearing names, writing names, transcribing names, remembering dates, etc.

As to the "undercount".... an attempt was made for the 1940 Census to estimate how many people were not counted in a specific age group...namely the sample of men that could join the armed forces. The estimate was that 2.8 to 3.1% were missed, but jumped to 13% for blacks. See pages 103 and 104 of:
http://www.ipums.umn.edu/usa/voliii/enumproc1940.pdf

Joel Weintraub
Posted: 21 Aug 2005 3:28AM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 21 Oct 2005 1:14AM GMT
Yes, there are many omissions on the US censuses, but don't jump to conclusions and think that your ancestors were missed if you can't find them. Most of the time I've finally found missing ancestors after searching different spellings of their last names, by searching other relatives, or by trying to follow their neighbors from 10 years before. I have a few more tricks I use. At times I have even paged through every township in a county until I finally found my family with an unreadable surname.

It surprises me how thorough the census takers were even if they misspelled names and botched information. So far I’ve even found people in the deepest, poorest hollows of Appalachia. Usually the individuals are in the census somewhere, so I wouldn't give up too easily.

Sincerely,

Susan
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