Minnesota overcounted by 219,000 in the 2020 census

It saved a congressional seat, but what does it say about the accuracy of the state’s statistics?

The U.S. Census Bureau recently published a survey on the accuracy of the 2020 census count, state by state. The agency found that most states got it about right two years ago, in the midst of the pandemic.

A half dozen states had significant undercounts, the Census Bureau reports. Not so surprising, given the difficulties in conducting the census in a time of lockdowns. You could imagine that the circumstances on the ground in April 2020 could result in some missed households or non-responses. Florida and Texas were two of the most undercounted.

But the bureau also found eight states that vastly overcounted their populations, including Minnesota. In an exercise that is meant to be an actual enumeration of the entire population, rather than an estimate or a sampling, it’s harder to see how an overcount of that size could occur. Hawaii had the nation’s largest estimated overcount at 6.8 percent.

In Minnesota’s case, the bureau estimates that the overcount totaled 3.84 percent. Given that the official census count in 2020 registered at 5,706,494, an overcount at that rate means the mark was missed by 219,129 souls.

More than 200,000 persons were either double counted or invented out of nothing by census takers. At the time the 2020 census figures were released, state officials touted the better-than-regional-average growth rate of 7.6 percent over 2010. It turns out that fully half of that claimed growth was illusory.

The overcount enabled Minnesota to retain all eight of its congressional seats for the next ten years. The state’s margin of 89 persons kept the 8th seat from shifting to New York in the nationwide reapportionment of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The same bureau is also tasked with estimating such things as unemployment levels. The census overshoot should call into question surveys that indicate the state is enjoying record low unemployment.

More recently the Census Bureau has reported on large levels of outmigration from Minnesota. Given findings on the 2020 census, is the actual number of people leaving the state even larger?