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Census Bureau Distortions Hide Immigration Crisis—Real Numbers Much Higher
Virginia Deane Abernethy, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Chairman, Board of Directors, Population-Environment Balance
October 17, 2006
Publications on the size and growth rate of the U.S. population seem designed to confuse rather than enlighten. The Census Bureau made up for large annual underestimates of population growth during the 1990s with a 12 million person bump in the census year. Unfazed, it perpetuates error through massively undercounting illegal aliens.
The Census Bureau [CB] is not unique in massaging statistics, possibly in the service of policy rather than accuracy. As an example, economist John Williams' www.shadowstats.com addresses other seriously misleading statistics. Williams computes current unemployment and inflation numbers using criteria standardized by the government during the 1940s-1970s—criteria since altered to the extent that past and present cannot be meaningfully compared.
A 12 Million Person Bump in One Year
A recent smoking gun that reflects on the CB's underreporting is that as much as a 12 million increase in the U.S. population, from as low as 272.7 million in 1999 to a 284.5 million high in 2000, had to be accommodated in one year. For comparison, the CB's population growth estimates in other years of the 1990s decade center approximately on 2.5 million annually.
Allowing for the standard 2.5 million increase in the tenth year, and spreading the remaining 9.5 million increase over each year of the decade would add 0.9 million in annual growth. A better estimate of U.S. population growth during the 1990s would have been 3.4 million annually.
The startling 12 million person one-year increase in the CB's 2000 report reflects findings of the 10-year census. With introspection, someone might have asked if the 12 million leap was enough, particularly in view of reports that illegal alien border crossings were increasing dramatically.
Much was made of failure to count the homeless in censuses before 2000, but the 1990s underestimates seem mostly the result of not taking into account the illegal aliens settling in the United States. For example, the CB estimated 5 to 7 million illegal aliens present in 2000, whereas other sources [see below] were quick to estimate 18 to 28 million illegal aliens at the least.
If 11 to 23 million more illegal aliens than the CB expected - and failed to count – actually were in the United States in 2000, then the real population of that year was already close to exceeding 300 million. In fact, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the 300 million mark was passed in the year 2000. This October's much-heralded announcement that the United States just reached 300 million in 2006 will be another scene in a great charade.
Long Term Estimates Also Revised But Still Short
The CB also revises upward its long-term projections but perhaps not enough. An example pointed out in demographer Lindsey Grant's newest book, The Collapsing Bubble, is that the CB projects the likeliest size of the U.S. population in 2100 to be 600 million. This is 100 million greater than the CB's middle projection made as recently as 1994 – a 20 percent revision upward!
Reviewing Grant's book, Andrew Ferguson hazards that the CB's new middle projection should have been still higher. If the "U.S. population continues to grow at the rate of the three closing decades of the last century, 1.06% per year, then by 2100 [the] U.S. population would be 810 million"
The Census Bureau Perpetuates Error
Going forward from year 2000, a chastened CB might have been expected to correct the assumptions that had led to massive underestimation. But no, the 2001 through 2005 estimates return to the fiction that the U.S. population grows each year at the relatively stately pace of slightly less than 3 million, at a rate of 0.9 percent annually in the latest year, 2005 . The illegal alien addition to the population is assumed to be 500,000 annually.
Massive Undercounting of Illegal Aliens
Reports of much higher-than-reported illegal aliens entering, and in, the United States can be tracked almost back to the 2000 census.
In February, 2002, a Border Patrol Supervisor of 27 years service testified before Congress that the number of illegal aliens was several times the CB estimate. He stated, "According to various Mexican media and official Mexican government sources, the country of Mexico has 18 million of its citizens residing illegally in the United States at this very minute". Besides Mexicans, what of Filipinos, Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Eastern Europeans, Irish, Brazilians, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Haitians illegally in the United States?
Using financial and employment data, analysts for Bear Stearns Asset Management also estimate a number much higher than anything considered by the Census Bureau. They concluded in early 2004 that, "The number of illegal immigrants in the United States may be as high as 20 million people, more than double the official 9 million people estimated by the Census Bureau".
Time Magazine asserted, also in 2004, that more than 4000 illegal aliens walk across just the Mexico/ Arizona border each day! Nationwide, an estimated 3 million enter annually, and as many as "15 million" are thought to remain in the United States.
Department of Education reports are also suggestive. Comparing projected and actual enrollments for the latest years the data were compiled yields this: The projected K-12 increase in public school enrollments from 2002 to 2003 was 11,000 pupils. But "actual 2003 enrollments came in 339,000 above 2002's level – more than 30 times the projected rise". Where did these children come from, if not illegal immigration?
Patrick Buchanan's 2006 book, State of Emergency: Third World Invasion and Conquest of America states that the Border Patrol [BP] apprehends 150,000 illegal aliens breaking into the United States each month, amounting to 1.8 million apprehensions annually.
Some illegal border crossers may be apprehended more than once, although most – 70 percent - make it in a first or second attempt, and 92 percent make it eventually according to the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC, San Diego. In recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center, stated that 92 to 97 percent succeed on two tries or less.
The BP estimates that, for each illegal alien apprehended, 3 to 5 succeed in entering. Taking the middle figure , then 4 x 1.8 million annual apprehensions = 7.2 million aliens enter illegally each year.
Moreover, many foreigners enter supposedly for a visit but never leave. In 1992, approximately 150,000 more foreign passengers arrived in US airports than left. USA TODAY reports that "at least 3.8 million" illegal aliens arrived legally but remained after visas expired. This could be, in part, H1B workers who stayed – contrary to the terms of their visa—after termination of their job.
Conservatively, assume that just 5 million – rather than 7.2 million plus visa over-stayers - actually enter the United States each year. Of these 5 million, assume that 40 percent remain indefinitely. This calculation suggests that 2 million illegal aliens melt permanently into the U.S. population annually. If 60 percent stay, then approximately 3 million new illegal aliens remain in the United States annually. Compare that to the Census Bureau's puny estimate of 500,000 illegal aliens staying annually!
A high proportion of illegal aliens planning to stay on a permanent basis seems reasonable on various counts. Recent polls show that 46 percent of Mexicans would like to move to the United States. Once here, illegal aliens seemingly wish to stay: A 2005 poll found that 4-to-1, or 80 percent, would stay if given a good opportunity. Rather than risk repeatedly re-crossing, illegal alien men are increasingly likely to be joined by their families.
Also suggesting long term residence in the United States is the calculation that "Mexico will take in a record $24 billion in remittances this year". Transients do not earn that kind of spare change, particularly in the low skill jobs available to most Mexican and Central American workers.
Our estimated low figure, 2 million illegal aliens staying annually, more than explains why the 2000 census required the CB to show a leap of 12 million in the population in one year. The high figure of 3 million strongly suggests that the census missed a good many! That is likely: What illegal alien family member will hop up and say, "Count me"?
The question arises, does the CB have an agenda other than factual reporting of population statistics? Errors since 1990 have all gone in the same direction: Underestimation of real growth and growth rates.
Moreover, the revisions and catch-up numbers are underplayed. Who knew that the 2000 census forced a hike of 12 million in the estimated size of the population? Rarely is the public told that the U.S. population is growing very fast – by far the fastest rate of any developed country in the world. Or that the growth rate itself appears to be growing?
The Census Bureau's misinformation appears consistent with intent to soothe a public that is becoming alarmed at the scale of immigration and the rapidity of population growth. Underestimates also go far to discredit those who call for a moratorium on both legal and illegal immigration, and for ending automatic citizenship awarded to children born in the United States to illegal alien parents. Accurate reporting of numbers would make ending birth-right citizenship politically compelling and would strengthen the argument for a catch-our-breath moratorium on legal immigration.
One may fairly conclude that the Census Bureau is a willing participant to misinforming the public on the state of the nation. Perhaps this is a strategy designed to re-direct and lull voters into complacency so that they forgive their Representatives and Senators who legislate in favor of illegal aliens and massive legal immigration, rather than in the interest of citizens of the United States.
Massive Undercounting Begins with Legal Immigration
Throughout the 1990s, the CB has nailed legal immigration at approximately 1 million annually. This entails omitting the annual refugee number, which has varied from 45,000 to 142,000 and the asylee number, approximately 150,000 annually. Arrivals under student programs and the H1B and other employer-sponsored programs and their families, and "extended voluntary departure" categories are also ignored, although these "temporary" visa categories often become de facto permanent residents.
Since the 1970s, the Census Bureau has been the target of legal actions by State and local government because census numbers are the basis for allocating billions of dollars in federal funds. Recently, the Census Bureau acknowledged undercounting the population of Washington D.C. by 6 percent.
Also compare the CB numbers with those of another government agency, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] constituted under the Homeland Security Department. For 2005, the USCIS Yearbook estimate of permanent legal additions to the US population is 1,224,078 [including legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and orphans]. This is the same year for which the CB estimates less than 1 million immigrants altogether.
The CB appears to be missing one-quarter million persons who legally entered the United States in 2005, people who will be permanent additions to the US population.
Real Population Numbers
The U.S. population passed 300 million in year 2000. The current U.S population is approximately 327 million.
The latest year for which vital statistics are reported, 2004, saw approximately 1.7 million more total births than deaths. Of the approximately 4.1 million total births, 945,000 or nearly one quarter were Hispanic births. Additionally, the data suggest that between 2 and 3 million illegal aliens stay in the United States and more than 1 million legal immigrants arrive in the United States annually.
This numbers indicate a faster rate of population growth and a shorter doubling time than either the annual rate calculated over a 30-year rate interval by Andrew Ferguson [1.06 percent annually, projecting 66 years to double] or the CB rate reported for the 1990s [1.2 percent annual growth, projecting 58 years to double].
Summing annual growth figures [1.7 million natural increase, 1 million legal immigrants, and 2 or 3 million illegal aliens who stay], one sees that, each year, the population grows by 4.7 to 5.7 million. The annual growth rate is between 1.4 and 1.7 percent. If 1.4 percent, the population doubling time is 50 years.
The rate of growth has itself been growing. If acceleration of the growth rate continues, we are on trend to pass the 1 billion mark in approximately 70 years.
Is today's 327 million "many"? Consider that the United States fought and won World War II with a population of 135 million— less than half
Addendum: Population Reference Bureau Reliance on Erroneous CB Numbers
The Population Reference Bureau [PRB] publishes CB numbers in periodic Bulletins, intermittent US Population Data Sheets [USPDS] and the widely consulted annual World Population Data Sheet [WPDS]. The PRB explains, "For countries with good censuses and complete registration of births and deaths [primarily more developed countries], the latest data are used from national statistical offices".
The 1999 U.S. population is reported differently in two PRB publications that both appeared in 2000. "The American Work Force" reports 272.7 million. The World Population Data Sheet [WPDS 2000] reports 275.6 million [jumping twice the usual amount from the previous year].
The reported population for 2000 also fluctuates. In December, 2001, the "PRB Bulletin: What Drives U.S. Population Growth," p.4, reported year 2000 population as 281.4 million. Meanwhile, the WPDS 2001 had shown 2000 population as 284.5 [jumping 12 million from the first-reported 1999 figure].
The U.S. population in 2015 was projected to be 310.1 million [USPDS 1999]. The PRB web site www.prb.org states that the average growth of the U.S. population between 1990 and 2000 was 1.2 percent. Reporting 2005 data [WPDS 2006] PRB states that the U.S. population growth rate is 0.9 percent annually – 0.6 from natural increase and 0.3 from immigration. They project population growth of 40 percent between 2005 and 2050 [WPDS 2006]. Credibility check?
The PRB no longer reports population doubling time. But if one had confidence in the annual percentage growth rate, it would be easy to compute. The formula is:
"70 divided by annual percentage growth rate = number of years to double" [e.g. 70 / 1.2 = 58.3 years to double. Or, 70 / 1.4 = 50 years to double].
226.5 million. April 1, 1980 census [US Population Data Sheet 1981]
241 million in 1985. [World Population Data Sheet 1986]
243.8 million in1986 [WPDS 1987]
246.1 million in1987 [WPDS 1988
248.8 million in 1988 [WPDS 1989]
251.4 million in 1989 [WPDS 1990]
248.7 million [sic] April 1, 1990 census [USPDS 1990]
252.8 million in 1990. [WPDS 1991]
255.6 million in 1991. [WPDS 1992]
258.3 million in 1992 [WPDS 1993]
260.8 million in 1993 [WPDS 1994]
263.2 million in 1994 [WPDS 1995]
265.2 million in 1995 [WPDS 1996]
267.7 million in 1996 [WPDS 1997]
267.6 million [sic] in 1997 [USPDS 1998]
270.3 million in 1998 [USPDS 1999]
272.7 million in 1999. [PRB Bulletin: The American Workforce, 2000]
275.6 million in 1999 [WPDS 2000]
281.4 million in 2000 [PRB Bulletin: What Drives US Population Growth, 2001]
284.5 million in 2000 [WPDS 2001 reflecting census results] [NOTE: from the smallest 1999 number to the largest 2000 number is a nearly 12 million jump]
287.4 million in 2001 [WPDS 2002]
291.5 million in 2002 [WPDS 2003]
293.6 million in 2003 [WPDS 2004]
296.5 million in 2004 [WPDS 2005]
299.1 million in 2005 [WPDS 2006]
Additional Note: Going forward, the Census Bureau's returns to estimating sedate growth centering approximately on 3 million or less annually. WPDSs published in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 state that the population for the preceding years, respectively, was 284.5 million; 287.4 million; 291.5 million; 293.6 million; 296.5 million; and 299.1 million. This quiet sequence brings one to gentle anticipation of the much-heralded announcement that the United States will pass its 300 millionth person in October, 2006.
The 300 million in October 2006 is nonsense. That number was passed some years ago. The CB undercounts legal immigration by omitting whole categories. Since 2000, illegal immigration probably accounts for most of the misinformation. Whereas the CB estimated approximately 11 million illegal aliens in the United States in 2005, and now apparently concedes up to 12 million, various credible sources put the number much higher.
Implications of Rapid U.S. Population Growth
Some ecologists, labor economists, and conservationists say that rapid population growth, regardless of its source, is a danger. This concern departs from the United Nations and Wall Street Journal view, which decries European and Japanese economic and social health because these countries' populations are on the verge of stabilizing.
So what, if anything, is wrong with an exploding US population?
First, native-born Americans spontaneously chose small family size starting in approximately 1970. The majority would probably be better off economically and ecologically today if, congruent with the recommendations of the 1972 Rockefeller Report, the U.S. population had begun to stabilize 30 years ago.
Second, current population growth is being forced on native-born Americans by immigration. Approximately 90 percent of growth results from the annual immigration flow and the descendants of post-1970 immigrants.
Births to immigrant women represent births that, but for immigration, would not have been U.S. births. The Associated Press reports that Mexican women in Georgia and North Carolina average 180 births per 1000 women of reproductive age. This is nearly three times the rates of native-born American women. In 2004, the fertility rate of non-Hispanic black women was 66.7 per 1000; of non-Hispanic white women, 58.5 per 1000 women of reproductive age.
Moreover, immigration accelerates world population growth. Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies writes, "Analysis of data collected by Census Bureau in 2002 shows that women from the top-10 immigrant-sending countries living in the United States collectively tend to have higher fertility than women in their home countries. As a group, immigrants from these countries have 23 percent more children than women in their home countries, adding to world population growth…… Among Mexican immigrants in the United States, for example, fertility averages 3.5 children per woman compared to 2.4 children per women in Mexico. Among Chinese immigrants, fertility is 2.3 in the United States compared to 1.7 in China. Immigrants from Canada have 1.9 children compared to 1.5 children in Canada."
Third, current immigration comes overwhelmingly from Third World countries that have cultures vastly different from ours. These immigrants may not wish to assimilate and, indeed, may have difficulty adjusting.
The territorial integrity of the United States may develop into a further contentious issue that divides citizens from Mexican immigrants. A June 2002 Zogby poll reveals that a "substantial majority of Mexican citizens believe that southwestern America properly belongs to Mexico.".
Fourth, rapid increases in the labor force have resulted in a 30-year trend toward lower real, inflation-adjusted income for the 80 percent of Americans who depend on wages and salaries. Immigration drives most of labor force growth and thus accounts for virtually all of the recent income depression.
Economist George Borjas observes that immigration depresses wages and displaces Americans from jobs, costing native-born American workers $195 billion annually,. In 2000, the wages of native-born American workers were reduced by an average 3.2 percent.
The impact is not even. Citing a current Northeastern University study, the New York Times states that "illegal immigrants contributed to a sharp decline in employment of teenage and young adult Americans". The effect on young and less-educated workers is not new news. Most recently, however, Borjas reported that the wage impact is "most intense" at the two ends of the native-born education range".
In addition to depressing wages, immigrant workers displace Americans. Steven Camarota analyzes CB data, finding that "between March 2000 and March 2004, the number of adults working actually increased, but all of the net change went to immigrant workers".
Andrew Sum and his colleagues at Northeastern University concur. Since 2000, immigrants have taken more than 100 percent of net new jobs, that is, both capturing new jobs and displacing Americans from existing jobs .
A further, fiscal, problem is that many Third World immigrants are very low skilled. Consequently, they do not pay taxes commensurate with the costs they impose on communities and States.
Professor Donald Huddle estimates that between 1996 and 2006, immigrants cost taxpayers an average of $93 billion annually, net of any taxes immigrants pay. In view of the unexpectedly high flow of immigrants, Huddle's numbers would, today, be adjusted higher.
The National Research Council's well-received report, The New Americans estimates that each legal or illegal immigrant without a high school education imposes a net [after subtracting all taxes the immigrant pays] lifetime cost on taxpayers of $89,000 in direct services. With a high-school education, the average fiscal impact per immigrant is still negative, $31,000. The figures are significant insofar as the average Mexican and Central American has less than an eighth grade education.
Economist Lester Thurow's 1990s analysis of the cost of population growth – without reference to whether the growth is organic or from immigration – concludes that maintaining the quality of infrastructure requires a nation to commit 12.5 percent of its GDP for each 1 percent of population growth. A community study on infrastructure costs associated population growth is congruent. Eben Fodor calculated in the 1990s that each new three-person residential unit burdened taxpayers with an average of more than $15,000 in new requirements for capital improvements, not counting annual operating costs.
Less immediately evident but powerfully important in the long run, population growth harms the nation through depleting its natural wealth – as documented by Carrying Capacity Network, a non-profit grassroots organization that advocates an immigration moratorium. One acre of land is lost to highways and urbanization for each person added to the U.S. population; each person uses 2,800 gallons of oil equivalents and 530,000 gallons of water per year,,,
One hesitates to mention the contentious Kyoto Treaty, which would require the United States to cut its total greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below the 1990 level. With population growth, this target becomes ludicrous. Instead of an average 7 percent per capita emissions reduction—as would have been the target with a 1990s-size population size - required restrictions become ever more stringent as the population grows.
Such ecological losses and challenges are separate from the loss of community public spiritedness that follows rapid growth and multiplying languages and cultures. Immigration advocates are challenged to show one fast-growing, multicultural society that is cohesive, democratic and smoothly functioning.
Subjectively, many Americans see their communities, schools, and hospital emergency rooms flooded with people who speak a language different from their own. They see both hospitals close from skyrocketing costs for uncompensated care and also rising tax bills to fund services for aliens who lack healthcare insurance. The medically uninsured appear to increase by approximately 1 million annually. How many are illegal aliens? How many are among the least fortunate Americans or established immigrants displaced from jobs by illegal aliens? How many Americans become ill with infectious diseases that had long been eradicated from the United States but have been reintroduced through mass immigration?.
The tally of losses from mass immigration suggests that a large price is paid for so-called cheap labor and for advancing the financial and political elite's agenda of erasing borders and integrating Canada, Mexico and the United States into the Partnership for Prosperity and Security, a.k.a. North American Union. Middle class Americans, possibly to be joined by Canadians, would pay the greater part of the bill.
A healthy respect for probable errors in Census Bureau data advances the case for putting enforcement with the purpose of stopping illegal immigration and dramatically reducing legal immigration at the top of the legislative and executive branch agenda. A catch-our-breath moratorium on all immigration should be a further goal of domestic policy. Immigration legislation should be debated on the basis of accurate demography as well as economic and social data that recognize costs associated with population growth, the role of immigration, and the costs and benefits of additional immigration.
 Population Reference Bureau. World Population Data Sheet [WPDS], Washington, D.C. 2006.
 Stoddard, David J. Testimony Submitted to U.S. Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, Representative Mark Souder, Chairman. February 22, 2002
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Virginia Abernethy [email her], Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, is on the Board of Directors of Population-Environment BALANCE and the Board of Directors of Carrying Capacity Network. Her publications include Population Politics 2000, 1993; and Population Pressure and Cultural Adjustment, 2005, 1979; and approximately 100 additional published papers.