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Census Bureau: 2010 population count was pretty accurate

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Census officials say the overall 2010 population count was well-executed.

The U.S. Census Bureau is getting better at counting the number of people living in the United States, though it’s still disproportionately overlooking some minorities.

A review of the accuracy of the 2010 census found that it overcounted the total U.S. population by 0.01 percent, or about 36,000 people. That compares to a census overcount of 0.49 percent in 2000 and an undercount of 1.61 percent in 1990.

“On this one evaluation — the net undercount of the total population — this was an outstanding census,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a press release.

The post-enumeration survey measured the coverage of the nation’s household population (excluding the 8 million people in “group quarters,” such as nursing homes or college dorms). It surveyed a sample of the 300.7 million people living in housing units and then matched the responses to the census, resulting in estimates of error.

Census officials said renters were slightly undercounted and homeowners slightly overcounted in the 2010 census.

The 2010 count missed about 2.1 percent of black Americans and 1.5 percent of Hispanics. That's statistically comparable to levels in 2000. The non-Hispanic white population was slightly overcounted.

“While the overall coverage of the census was exemplary, the traditional hard-to-count groups, like renters, were counted less well,” Groves said. “Because ethnic and racial minorities disproportionately live in hard-to-count circumstances, they too were undercounted relative to the majority population.”

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The accuracy of the count is a big improvement from 1940, when the black undercount was estimated at a whopping 8.4 percent, according to an Associated Press review of records recently released online. That means more than a million blacks weren’t accounted for in 1940, an undercount that had ramifications at the time on the political map and the distribution of resources, according to the AP.

The total population of the U.S. was counted as 308,745,538 in 2010, a 9.7 percent increase from the 2000 count.

As required by the Constitution, the census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. The population count is used to allocate House seats and federal money for roads, schools and social programs.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com's James Eng contributed to this report.

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