Census Bureau Distortions Hide Immigration
Real Numbers Much Higher
Virginia Deane Abernethy, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Chairman, Board of Directors, Population-Environment
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
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
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"(1)
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 (2). The illegal
alien addition to the population is assumed to be 500,000
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"(3)
. Besides Mexicans, what of Filipinos, Indians, Chinese,
Koreans, Vietnamese, Eastern Europeans, Irish, Brazilians,
Guatemalans, Hondurans and Haitians illegally in the
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"(4)
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.(5)
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"
(6). 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 (7)
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(8) . 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(9)
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
(10). USA TODAY reports that
"at least 3.8 million" illegal aliens arrived
legally but remained after visas expired (11).
This could be, in part, H1B workers who stayed - contrary
to the terms of their visa -- after termination of their
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
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 (12).
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 (13).
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" (15).
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,
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. (16)
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 (17). 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
These 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] (18).
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
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
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].
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
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,
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
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 (20),
the U.S. population had begun to stabilize 30 years
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 (21).
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 (22). 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 (23).
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
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" (25).
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 (26),(27)
. In 2000, the wages of native-born American workers
were reduced by an average 3.2 percent (28).
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" (29).
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" (30).
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" (31).
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 (33).
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
(34). 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 (35).
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 (36).
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
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? (41)
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 (42).
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.
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