Local officials reject U.S. Census Bureau estimates showing a decline in Union County's population over the last seven years, claiming it has actually grown during that time.
U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today show that Union County's population dropped from 29,881 in 2000 to 27,770 in 2007, a loss of 2,111 people or 7.1 percent. Of South Carolina's 46 counties, only Bamberg County experienced a greater population loss at 7.2 percent.
If the estimates are correct, Union County's population is now the lowest it has been since 1910 when it was 29,911. Union County's population reached its peak in 1940 when it was 31,360 and has declined ever since. The last time the county's population was over 30,000 was in 1990 when it stood at 30,337.
Supervisor Donnie Betenbaugh raised questions about how the information was collected.
“I think the Census Bureau does a poor job counting our population,” he said. “If we want an accurate count, we have to assign county personnel to gather federal census information. We have four county personnel assigned to count households in the unincorporated areas of the county. We've found increases throughout the unincorporated areas of the county in the number of households. I'm confident that when the real census figures are released in 2010 it will show that the county's population has grown.”
Betenbaugh said that last year he spoke with representatives of the State Bureau of Statistics about the 2000 Census and was told that it was not unusual for the census bureau to under-count the population of municipalities, counties and even the state as a whole.
“They believed that we were under-counted by as many as a thousand people in 2000,” he said. “They also said that they believed that South Carolina was under-counted by several hundred thousand.”
Union Mayor Bruce Morgan pointed out that the census process is only just now beginning. He said that city personnel are in the process of gathering information on households in the city. He said he believes that when the process is complete and the real census is released it will show the city has actually gained in population.
“I don't know where they got those findings or even what they based them on,” Morgan said. “There's been no census count that I'm aware of and there won't be any real report come out until after 2010 when the real census comes out. How can they justify coming out with a report before the census is actually done? I believe the true census will show an increase in population.”
Morgan said that the city was also under-counted in 2000 and this year the city will conduct its own separate count to ensure a more accurate result.
Census bureau estimates show that most of the counties of the Upstate saw their populations grow including Cherokee (2.8 percent) Spartanburg (8.6 percent) and Greenville (12.8 percent). In Laurens County growth was flat and Abbeville County was the only other Upstate county to experience population loss (2.3 percent).
South Carolina's population grew from 4,023,628 to 4,407,709, a gain of 9.9 percent.