Berkeley Strives for Accuracy in 2010 Census

Photo: 1,405 students living in Unit 2 went uncounted in the 2000 census. UC and city officials hope to prevent this underrepresentation in 2010.
Anna Vignet/Photo
1,405 students living in Unit 2 went uncounted in the 2000 census. UC and city officials hope to prevent this underrepresentation in 2010.

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Analysis: undercounting in the Berkeley city census

City News Editor Amy Brooks talks to reporter Sarah Springfield about the issue of undercounting in the Berkeley city census.

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Even though national Census Day is five months away, city and university officials are already preparing a 2010 census campaign to address past undercounting, especially of students.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000, Berkeley is home to 102,743 residents. According to university and city officials, however, that number is far too low, thanks to the significant undercount of student and immigrant populations.

Most dramatically, only one resident out of 1,406 living in Unit 2 was counted in 2000, amounting to at least $1.4 million in lost funding, according to Joe Lee, census coordinator for the CityManager's Office.

"If you multiply (the number of undercounted students) by the funds that each person is worth to the city per year, there's a lot of money lost," he said. "Each person is worth at least $1,000 in funds for the city of Berkeley per year, and we missed out on a lot."

Nearly 10 years later, campus and city officials are campaigning to fix this problem by educating and motivating every resident, especially students living in university housing, to be counted in the federal survey, said Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna.

"We are working very closely to get the word out to the students that where they live as part of their student life is where they're counted," Caronna said. "It's important ... to count them so we can make sure the roads are nice, the parks are nice, the city is nice."

Local population counts also determine redistricting for representation in federal government and citywide safety resources, said Martin Takimoto, director for Marketing and Communication for Residential and Student Services Programs at UC Berkeley.

"Even though students are, for the most part, temporary residents, their count does have an impact on public services that affect public safety and law enforcement, firefighters, all that," he said.

Takimoto added that the census should be important for students since the count also affects federal funding for higher education, such as tuition grants and subsidized loans.

With these issues at stake, city and university officials have collaborated since last summer to educate students on the importance of the census, he said.

"Since the summer, the UC representatives, city representatives and city bureau staff have been meeting to plan how to roll it out ... We're looking for a marketing strategy to get the message out clearly and consistently," Takimoto said.

The creation of the UC Berkeley Complete Count Committee is one way university officials plan to get their message out to students living in all campus housing in the coming months, said committee member and UC Berkeley senior Christina Markle.

"(The committee) will have approximately 14 key players of leaders on campus who will come together with the task of getting students to fill out the census," she said in an e-mail.

Miscounts in immigrant populations also contribute to inaccuracies in the city's recognized population and a loss of federal funding for public services, city officials said.

According to Manuel De Paz, program coordinator of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, a Berkeley-based advocacy group for refugees and immigrants, undocumented individuals may be especially afraid to participate in the census count for fear of government intervention.

"Especially new immigrants, they don't understand what the census is, and even when they have been here a long time they may not understand how important it is," De Paz said. "The government needs education through media because a lot of people think they have to give personal information. A lot of people are afraid that they're going to be targeted."

Using the tagline, "It's Easy, It's Safe, It's Important," university and city officials hope to both alleviate resident concerns and motivate the public to partake in the count, Lee said.

"We want everyone to be educated in the fall," he said. "Then, around winter time, the city will energize all constituents about the census. And once 2010 hits, that's when the active participation begins."


Contact Sarah Springfield at [email protected]

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