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Institute's demographic research documents Census undercount

The U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that Boston’s population grew for the first time in three years, yet the city feels that the number should be even higher.  “We’re happy to see that they’re recognizing our population continues to grow, but we still think it’s roughly 20,000 people too low,” says Jessica Shumaker, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.  The population estimates show Boston’s population grew six-tenths of 1 percent last year to 599, 351, but the Authority believes that the population increased to 616,535.

The city and state have been preparing for the 2010 census by funding research through the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute to account for missing people, as a low population census could cost Massachusetts federal grant money and seats in Congress.  The Donahue Institute started by looking at the number of people in group housing, including dormitories, prisons, shelters and nursing homes.  The research showed 12,589 people living in group quarters in Boston that were previously unaccounted for, says Mike Goodman of the Donahue Institute.

The Census Bureau does not update the number of people living in group housing between ten year census counts, yet Goodman points out that in college-centric cities those numbers could be substantial.  The Bureau estimates that Worcester lost 316 people last year, but Goodman’s team found 526 people unaccounted for in group housing and dorms.  Similarly, the census reported a loss of 494 people in Springfield, yet the Donahue Institute’s research showed an extra 1,431 people the census missed in group housing.

Outlaying towns saw greater growth than Boston, the most significant being Danvers, which had an increase of 4.12 percent, adding more than 1,000 people. Danvers town manager, Wayne Marquis credited this increase to several major housing developments.

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