Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Counting the Big Z

Well.. just because someone needs to follow up on the stories (Trib,   PG  ) about how Butler County's Zelienople was undercounted in the 2010 Census.  I went over the long story in a past post here.  This was all about money and by falling below a population of 4,000 a municipality loses out on some direct Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money. 

So what happened?  Turns out the census folks agreed to make a change, but it didn't work out as some may have hoped.  Zelienople's official of population of 3,812 was changed to...  3,812.  There were a few changes of population between some of the individual census blocks in the borough, but the total population count is the same.

The thing here is..  I suspect the borough had a case.  The 2010 Census apparently shows no group quarters at all.  Group Quarters can include nursing homes and other similar facilities.  In 2000, the borough of Zelienople had a GQ population of 67, but in 2010 it shows zero. 

The problem is that I think the census folks feel constrained by statute in how much they can 'correct' data from the decennial census. The Constitution itself says the census happens once a decade, not for years to follow.   The Count Question Resolution process by which the revised numbers linked above were produced really can just move folks around.  They can't really 'recount' anywhere and most of the corrections are populations that were in fact counted during the census, but possibly were placed in the wrong location.  If someone was completely missed, they pretty much remain missed in the official decennial stats.  The census can do a special census to put better numbers into a public record, but the decennial counts stays the same.

So...  if a future special count gets them back over 4,000 it seems likely HUD will still allocated them their CDBG money.  They will need a lot more than the 67 to get there.  We'll see.

Speaking of census errors.   The thing about any potentially missed group quarters in Zelienople it is fair to say that is the census' fault.  If there was a GQ population there in 2000 and it just went missing it should have raised red flags.  A bigger group of folks that look like they were missed was the entire new dorm, Shannon Hall,  converted for  the Art Institute in Downtown Pittsburgh.  700 or so folks in  apparently are not showing in the 2010 Census.   Someone forgot to tell the Census folks about the new dorm.  They rely on local input for new things like that so that isn't on them.  So ~700 folks that were not counted.  It was adding them into the latest population estimates for the city that appeared like rapid population growth.  Makes a bit of an impact for the city of Pittsburgh, but really is saying the Downtown resident population is a decent chunk more than we all thought. I think it means that the increase in the student population Downtown exceeds the increase in the population in all the new condos/apartments Downtown over the decade. So kind of a big deal.

So here is a serious question for the crowd.  Any other large Group Quarters type facilties (dorms, but also nursing homes, prisons or related and similar) built in the city between 2000-2010?  If we get a list, along with specific locations, I'll check to see if they were included.  Maybe we can go MacGyver on the population counts and jury-rig a higher population for the city.  If successful maybe we can even get a finder's fee from the city?  Use comments for any candidates.. remember to provide as specific a location as possible.

Bonus points for who can identify what the original Big Z was in Pittsburgh and where it was located.  I am talking of a place, not a person. 


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