Last Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau made a shocking announcement: The District of Columbia currently has a population of 572,059 people, down just 5.7 percent from 1990. That decline was nowhere near the apocalyptic 14 percent plunge that the bureau had predicted less than a year ago. How could the projections have been so wrong? The Washington City Paper has learned that bureau demographers, in a departure from normal practice, did not base their forecasts on sophisticated statistical modeling and demographic analysis. Instead, anonymous sources deep inside the bureau say, census experts downed a cup of java each morning, scanned the news headlines, and adjusted their numbers accordingly.
Headline Census estimate
District homicide rate peaks at 489 (1991)Subtract 489, subtract bodies not reported, subtract those who consider themselves extremely "risk-averse"
Net change: -20,489
Bill Clinton elected president (1992) Add vast "right-wing conspiracy"
Net change: +10
Reader's Digest misshapes D.C. (1993)Subtract a few lopped-off neighborhoodsNet change: -35,000
Marion S. Barry Jr. re-elected after serving Subtract residents of Ward 3
prison sentence (1994)who just can't "get over it"
Net change: -9,000
Financial World calls D.C.'s governmentSubtract people who are surprised
worst-run in country (1995)Net change: 0
Mayor Barry coronated as king of Add Sikensi emigres who want to be Sikensi during visit to Ivory Coast (1995)close to their leader
Net change: +83
Congress creates control board (1995)Add consultantsNet change: +1,500
Jesse Jackson resigns as shadow senatorSubtract Jesse Jackson
(1996)Net change: -1
D.C. woman gives birth to sextuplets (1997)Add 6
Net change: +6
Hugh G. Rection found on voter rolls Add Hugh G. Rection
(1997)Net change: +1
D.C. Public Schools fail to open on time Subtract parents and kids fed up and (1997)moving to Montgomery, Prince George's, and Arlington counties
Net change: -25,000
Anthony A. Williams elected mayor (1998)Add First Mother Virginia Williams
Net change: +1
Voters approve hybrid school board (2000)Add residents who think this will make any difference in quality of D.C. public schools
Net change: 0
Fresh Fields opens on P Street NW (2000)Add uppity shoppers and organic fiends doped up on St. John's Wort
Net change: +3,000