Report says 2020 Census undercounted Detroit by 8%, costing city millions in funding

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
Photo credit Jon Hewett / WWJ

DETROIT (WWJ) – City leaders in Detroit say they’ve got proof that the city was severely undercounted in the 2020 Census, meaning Detroit likely missed out on tens of millions of dollars in future federal funding.

Mayor Mike Duggan and researchers with Wayne State University and the University of Michigan outlined evidence during a press conference Thursday suggesting the city may have been undercounted by about 8%.

A report from the University of Michigan's Poverty Solutions initiative, using data from the United States Postal Service and a Wayne State audit of 10 block groups in the city shows the census may have missed about 964 residents in those areas alone.

Jeffrey Morenoff of Poverty Solutions said Thursday when extrapolated to the rest of the city, there could have been tens of thousands of Detroiters who weren’t counted in the census.

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Officials say more than $500 million in federal funding for programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Head Start, highway planning, construction and other important programs are allocated to states and localities based on decennial census counts.

An undercount of this magnitude would “result in a significant reduction in the financial resources that Detroiters and Michiganders receive,” officials with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan said.

The census determined about 639,000 residents live in the city -- a decline of about 10% from the 2010 census -- but Duggan, who was quick to question the findings of the census months ago believes the population is more around 700,000.

"Instead of spending billions of dollars on the census count, if the census worker had just followed the postman down the street, they would've found a lot more houses occupied than they found in the process," Duggan said. "The incompetence here is beyond belief."

Duggan told reporters the apparent undercount may have cost the city tens of millions of dollars.

Duggan said during a Thursday news conference the report from U of M and WSU is “incredibly impressive and deeply troubling.”

"The U.S. government has inflicted an inequity of monumental proportion on the people of the city of Detroit. All we want to do for years is to be counted. They have one job and they missed by a huge number," Duggan said.

The mayor says the city will be taking the findings of the report to the U.S. Department of Commerce and hope to have the apparent undercount corrected. If the department doesn’t provide a remedy, Duggan says they will take it to federal court.

The report shows five Detroit block groups known to have relatively stable occupancy rates were severely undercounted in the census. For example, census data shows the Boston Edison neighborhood was a little under 85% occupied, while USPS data and the WSU audit shows it much closer to 95%.

An analysis of five other block groups with less stable occupancy rates shows similar areas of the city may have been even more undercounted. READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Jon Hewett / WWJ