Cities, counties and states have circled July 15 on their calendars as the deadline for the government to decide whether to correct the 1990 Census.
But that decision may never be made. Federal officials told congressional committees Tuesday there's no guarantee the analysis of the census figures can be completed in time.The decision by Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher is important to local and state governments, who contend that the census missed thousands of ethnic minorities, especially those that are poor.
Under the court order that set the deadline, if the analysis isn't complete, the 1990 count will become official without any correction.
Census Director Barbara Bryant told a joint session of House and Senate committees she was optimistic the work would be done on time. But she added: "I would be foolish if I were to make any guarantee."
The bureau conducted surveys after the census to see what categories of people weren't counted. Studies show that past censuses have systematically counted too few blacks.
State and local officials from areas with a high proportion of minorities have demanded the census numbers be adjusted to add in an estimate for people who weren't counted.
The Census Bureau is now comparing its survey results with the census and running a complex series of mathematical tests to determine what adjustment would be accurate.