Last week, the Census Bureau provided the first peek at the results from the 2010 census.
The federal government uses these population counts to distribute federal dollars to the states. According to Andrew Reamer at the Brookings Institution, in 2008 the federal government distributed $866.5 billion in funds to the states based on the census population counts. Your state gets its share of the federal pie based on the number of people that are counted by the census. If there were $866.5 billion in funds to disperse in 2010, each person would be worth $2,807 in federal money to your state.
Note that I say “people” not “citizens.” This is where Arizona may have lost as much as three-quarters of a billion dollars annually in federal funding. The Arizona state government could have easily put this money to good use, as according to the New York Times, the state faced a $2.6 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2011.
I come to this conclusion by comparing what the Census Bureau expected Arizona’s population to be and what it really was — or at least who was counted. Throughout the decade, the Census Bureau demographers estimate each state’s population.
So, the Census Bureau demographers projected Arizona’s population to be 6,668,079 but the actual number was 6,392,017 or 276,062 fewer people than what the Census Bureau expected to find. This was the largest shortfall of any state in absolute numbers.
So why was the Census Bureau wrong? Or were they wrong? It is not unreasonable to surmise one of two things were contributing factors: Either Arizona’s undocumented population did not want to stick around in the state or they did not think it was wise to fill out a government form — even if their confidentiality is strictly guarded by the U.S. Census Bureau. If the shortfall was due to the latter, then at $2,708 a person, Arizona lost out on $775 million in federal grants per year.
Karma is a bitch, eh? Your whole “Papers, please” thing, Jan Brewer, just might have cost your state big. Really big.