You can't miss 'em

Montana State Roundup

Published January 1, 2003  | January 2003 issue

Census Bureau research recently discovered nearly 14,000 uncounted Montanans in the 2000 census, about 1.5 percent of the population. But in a state with a total population of 916,172, that's not insignificant. The total Montana undercount is the equivalent of misplacing the populations of Havre and Polson.

The census missed 1.3 percent of the white population, but 4.5 percent of Montana's total American Indian population. And a disproportionate number of the undercounted are Indian children—about 27 percent of all uncounted children in the census. American Indian children account for just under 10 percent of all children in the state.

One suggested reason for the undercount is that American Indians tend to move more often and use post office boxes for their mail, while the Census Bureau relies on a given address for delivery of the census forms.

Results of an undercount can inflate per capita income and thus reduce the federal share of state Medicaid, foster care and child care programs. But based on a 1999 Supreme Court decision, the adjusted figures cannot be used for redrawing congressional district boundaries or for federal aid allocations. The upshot of the additional count, then, is simply that Montana is getting closer to that 1 million population mark.

Kathy Cobb