Census figures say one thing on paper, but the reality on the streets in Chelsea is a completely different thing altogether.
In the wake of last week’s Census 2010 population release, City Manager Jay Ash said he believes thousands of Chelsea residents went uncounted and that it will result in a great financial loss to the City for several years.
“I feel they’re highly suspect,” said Ash, obviously frustrated. “My message is that there is no way Chelsea is below 40,000 in population and I would think there’s even more. It’s an inexact science. We’ve had official Census estimates over the last five years that placed us as high as 41,000. At 35,000, we think we’re substantially undercounted.”
Chelsea’s official population came in at 35,177, which was only an increase of 97 people over the 2000 Census numbers. That was good for a growth rate of less than 1 percent; far below what most believe is the City’s true growth rate.
In the 2000 Census, Chelsea grew by more than 6,000 people and was one of the fastest growing communities in the state. It was a giant leap for the City, putting it at more than 30,000 residents for the first time in a long time. Most expected the 2010 Census to provide a similar leap in order to escalate the population over the 40,000 mark for the first time in decades.
The fact that didn’t occur was quite a surprise, and also a numerical anomaly given the growth of other communities around Chelsea.
Ash pointed out that both Revere and Everett grew by nearly 10 percent each – with Revere being the fourth fastest growing City in the state. Boston grew by some four percent. Everywhere, except Chelsea, seemed to show significant growth.
“It may not be fatal, but it is frustrating that the process doesn’t work for places like Chelsea,” he said.
Ash said that the cost of being undercounted will be born in fewer federal and state dollars coming to the City, as well as affecting formulas for which human services agencies are funded.
It has caused Ash to look at appealing the number.
It is possible, he said, but any victory would only be for posterity.
“You can appeal, but the appeals are limited,” he said. “The appeal, even if successful, doesn’t change the number they give you from the perspective of funding formulas. We’re assessing our options right now.”
Crunching the numbers, the Census did show that the overwhelming majority of the population is a Hispanic majority. Hispanics accounted for 62 percent of the population in Chelsea at 21,855 residents.
It was the first time in the official Census that Hispanics registered more than 50 percent of the population. In 2000, Hispanics made up 48 percent of the Chelsea population and were still second in number to the white population.
This time around, the white population in Chelsea plunged by 3,500 people. That amounted to a decline from 58 percent of the population to just 48 percent of the population. Separating it out even further, non-Hispanic whites amounted to just 25 percent of the population, or 8,882 people. That was a drop of 13 percent from the 2000 Census.
The Census allows one to choose two categories in regards to Hispanic or Latino designation, so a person can actually choose the categories of ‘white’ and ‘Hispanic.’ Many Hispanics often choose both categories in the Census.
The same trends in white and Hispanic population numbers also played out in Revere and Everett, with nearly similar percentage drops in the white population being reported.
Blacks/African Americans reported in at 8.5 percent of the City’s population, and Asians made up 3.1 percent. For blacks, that was an increase of 1.2 percent, but for Asians it was a substantial decrease of 1.6 percent.
Those reporting to be of two or more races actually declined from the previous Census, going from 6.6 percent to 5.9 percent.
In one other oddly placed statistic, housing occupancy figures showed that nearly 300 new units had been established in Chelsea since 2000. However, it was also reported that 6.3 percent of those units were vacant. That was a reversal (literally) from the previous Census, when only 3.6 percent of the City’s housing units were vacant.
Last week’s Census release was only a release of basic population and demographic data that is needed for the state’s Congressional redistricting process. Much more detailed information about economics, family structure and employment will be available at some point before June.