Census Bureau’s Counting on Latinos


Federal officials met with Orange County Latino leaders Wednesday to ask for help in making sure immigrants are counted in the 2000 U.S. Census--a step they said is necessary for local governments to get their fair share of tax dollars.

Nearly 30,000 of more than 50,000 Orange County residents who were missed in the 1990 census were Latinos, census officials estimate. While the undercount for white residents of the county was an estimated 1.2%, nearly 5% of Hispanic residents were missed, census figures show.

Undercounting cost the city of Anaheim alone $100 million in federal funding over the decade, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) told the breakfast gathering of 200 Latino business owners, politicians, members of the clergy and other professionals at Edison International Field. In Santa Ana, seven schools could be filled with the children who were overlooked, census workers said.


“Are we going to allow that mistake to happen again?” Sanchez asked. “Not if I have anything to do with it.”

Census workers have already formed dozens of outreach partnerships with local governments, nonprofit groups and faith-based organizations to publicize the need to count as many Latinos as possible in next year’s census.

In California, the undercount of 800,000 people cost the state millions of dollars for children’s health care, education programs, road construction, parks and libraries. It also misled officials who use census figures to establish district boundaries for seats in the House of Representatives.

Census figures show the estimated undercount in Orange County ranged from zero in Villa Park, which had very few Latino residents in 1990, to 3.9% in the predominantly Latino city of Santa Ana.

Undercounting meant the state lost four congressional seats that could have been created, and Orange County lost one, Sanchez said.

The undercounting also affected corporate decisions which, in turn, had an impact on consumers, said Peter Villegas, a Washington Mutual vice president.


“The census has an influence over our communities as a whole,” Villegas said. “It is our marketing strategy. We use it to decide where to put the next ATM machine, open the next branch, and we use it for our recruiting efforts for our staffs. It’s extremely important on the business level too.”

To reach out to the undercounted communities, the U.S. Census Bureau is spending $166 million statewide on advertising and has hired nearly 4,000 workers to staff offices in Santa Ana, Fullerton, Irvine, and Huntington Beach to spread the word in Orange County.

The bureau’s partnership program and the Orange County Community Builders Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development signed an agreement on Wednesday to distribute informational literature to all HUD program beneficiaries.

“Partnerships is one of the themes of this census,” said John Reeder, census regional director. “Because we are bureaucrats, people don’t listen to us as they would to other groups.”

As a community partnership specialist, Armando Ramirez recruits governments and organizations to help him target the groups he wants to ensure are counted next year. One project that Ramirez recently expanded is a venture between the service organization Los Amigos of Orange County, 11 cities and 65 street vendors in which vendors are distributing census promotional items and personal notes from Los Amigos with the products that they sell.

Orange County’s Head Start Program will allow the census bureau to use its sites to count people who do not mail their forms by the deadline and need help filling them out. The 2000 census questionnaires will be mailed to households in March.


Sanchez encouraged those who attended the meeting to help form other citywide or countywide partnerships.

“We will be helping Orange County, we will be helping California and, more importantly, we will be helping ourselves,” she said.


Uncounted in OC

Comparing revised figures with their 1990 official tallies, U.S. Census officials estimate more than 50,000 Orange County residents--or about 2%--were missed in the last count. People of Hispanic origin accounted for more than 60% of the missing, officials estimate. Figures are given only for cities incorporated by 1990. Vila Park’s negative total reflects overcounting of other groups.


City Uncounted x Uncounted x Total Pct. Hispanic Anaheim 7323 2.7% 4622 Brea 459 1.4% 232 Buena Park 1574 2.2% 853 Costa Mesa 2630 2.7% 1141 Cypress 543 1.3% 239 Dana Point 516 1.6% 238 Fountain Valley 436 0.8% 164 Fullerton 2587 2.2% 1212 Garden Grove 3363 2.3% 1765 Huntington Beach 3119 1.7% 999 Irvine 1861 1.7% 321 Laguna Beach 232 1.0% 60 Laguna Niguel 390 0.9% 151 La Habra 1195 2.3% 859 Los Alamitos 278 2.3% 76 Mission Viejo 504 0.7% 193 Newport Beach 833 1.2% 58 Orange 2080 1.8% 1234 Placentia 818 1.9% 496 San Clemente 657 1.6% 287 San Juan Capistrano 329 1.2% 279 Santa Ana 12076 3.9% 10295 Seal Beach 113 0.4% 40 Stanton 923 2.9% 550 Tustin 1535 2.9% 659 Villa Park -2 0.0% 12 Westminster 1675 2.1% 715 Yorba Linda 331 0.6% 171 OC 50841 2.1% 29163