Hipsters to blame for billions of dollars in Census losses?

A worker hands out Census forms in Bay Ridge.

Everyone from doormen to hipsters may be to blame for New York City coming up short in the Census count this year — and they may have lost the city billions in federal funding.

New Yorkers slammed the 2010 Census when it was released in March. It showed there are only 8.1 million city residents, which city demographers say is far less than the 8.4 million people who actually live here.

Tony Farthing, director of the New York region of the Census Bureau, testified before the City Council Monday and said there are many reasons why the Census count could be inaccurate, ranging from people refusing to participate to doormen reluctant to allow Census workers into apartment buildings.

Common Census practice is to try knocking on a door a maximum of six times before labeling it vacant. But in New York, Census workers sometimes made extra efforts. Unfortunately, there were occasions when returning more than six times resulted in threats against the Census workers, in which case the house was labeled as having only one person living in it.

Councilwoman Diana Reyna theorized that “hipsters” may be part of the cause for the inconsistency of the Census numbers, stating that some of them “only want to be counted in their home state.” She also added that they might not participate in the Census because it wouldn’t be “cool.”

Another possible reason for the apparent undercount: illegal immigrants who are simply too afraid to talk to the government. There are an estimated 500,000 in New York.

It’s also possible that people did leave the city for economic reasons and that the undercount is actually not that far “under.”

Landlords at fault?

Another explanation for the oddities in the Census Bureau’s data is illegal subdivisions of housing. For example, if a person is illegally subletting his house to a family and actually lives with eight people, he is not likely to admit this to a Census worker. He would either lie about how many people he lives with, in which case the data is incorrect, or he would not bother answering the door at all, in which case his house gets counted as vacant despite the nine people living there.


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