While the 2020 Census was more complete than expected given the challenges in gathering data during the pandemic, the Census Bureau estimates in a new report that several groups were undercounted, including Black people, Latinos and Native Americans, among others.

Those groups were undercounted by a rate of about 3.3 percent, just under 5 percent and 0.91 percent respectively, the report states. Those are larger undercounts for all three categories than what was estimated following the 2010 Census.

In addition to several racial groups, the Census also undercounted young children and those who rent homes and apartments while overcounting, meaning some people may have been counted twice, some groups including non-Hispanic white people and the Asian population in addition to those who own homes, the report states.

“Today’s results show statistical evidence that the quality of the 2020 Census total population count is consistent with that of recent censuses. This is notable, given the unprecedented challenges of 2020,” Director Robert L. Santos said in a statement. “But the results also include some limitations—the 2020 Census undercounted many of the same population groups we have historically undercounted, and it overcounted others.”

The report estimated an overall “net coverage error” of about negative 0.24 percent, which equates to about 780,000 people, with a standard error of about 0.25 percent, averaging out the undercounts and overcounts to nearly the correct population.

The Census Bureau uses two methods to determine the effectiveness of a census, the Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) and the Demographic Analysis Estimates (DA).

The PES estimates the population using a “sample survey” where a sample of homes across the U.S. are contacted and reinterviewed by census takers, with those results compared to the responses from those homes for the census. The DA estimates the population using “vital records” like birth and death certificates and immigration data.

The two population estimates are then compared to each other and to the results of the Census itself to determine whether they match up and to determine how effectively the Census captured the overall population.

“Taking today’s findings as a whole, we believe the 2020 Census data are fit for many uses in decision-making as well as for painting a vivid portrait of our nation’s people,” Santos said. “We’ll be exploring the under- and overcounts further. That is part of our due diligence, our pursuit of excellence, and our service to the country.”

In the months and years prior to the 2020 Census, experts were concerned that efforts from the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the survey would lead to a larger portion of Hispanic people who may be in the country illegally being hesitant to respond to the Census out of fear of deportation, which would create an undercounting of the group.

“I’m personally not surprised to see the results we see today,” said Santos in a Thursday conference call about the report.

Update 3/10/22, 12:54 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

2020 Census Undercounting Race Groups

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