Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: How Many People Live in Your City?

How many people live in your city? It’s a simple question, and a lot rides on the answer. Federal and state funding formulas allocate money, in part, on the basis of a locality’s population. Businesses choose where to invest and expand based on market demographics. So, you can see why the City of Charlottesville takes such a keen interest in how many people live there.

According to an article in Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, the U.S. Census estimated the city’s population in 2001 to be 45,049, a jump of nearly 5,000 from the previous year. Then it adjusted the 2001 estimate back down to 39,300.

This April, reports the Daily Progress, the Census “released its 2004 population estimates, reporting that Charlottesville had lost 3,494 residents since 2000 for a total population of 36,605. This month, though, the bureau accepted the city’s challenge to the figures, agreeing the estimate should have been 40,745.”

By tracking the number of new houses built, car registrations and enrollment increases at the University of Virginia, city officials persuaded Census that the population had grown, not contracted. “It’s important for our prestige,” said Mayor David Brown. “We are a dynamic, exciting community where people want to be.”

Virginia’s older cities are making a come-back. Tremendous re-development is taking place. People are moving back. It’s vital that the numbers reflect this positive trend. Based on the Charlottesville experience, city officials shouldn’t count on Census to get the numbers right.

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  1. GOPHokie Avatar

    With real estate prices like they are, I can believe that permanent residents have decreased in Cville.
    There is alot of students, but its not out of my realm of possibilty that their population has fallen.
    I have not been to Cville in 2 years though, so my opinion is only theoretical.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    GOPHokie: About halftime last night, they were really looking forward to your next visit. Maybe this morning not so much.

    Jim: Must be the same federal whizkids who were counting the crowd at the N.O. Convention Center (I know, topic off limits, but too easy a target to resist.)

  3. Bassizzzt Avatar

    I know where the population went, it’s still tied up in traffic on 29.

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