HARLINGEN, Texas – Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell says the State Demographer’s Office could be underestimating his city’s population by 25 percent.

Boswell gave his views on the need for an accurate Census count during a virtual hearing hosted by the Texas Senate Committee on Redistricting.

The final numbers that come out of the Census Bureau following the 2020 count are vitally important because they will determine how much representation the Valley gets in Congress and how much federal funding the region receives. 

The Census Bureau’s final tallies for Texas should be known in the Spring. Once known, state lawmakers will redraw boundary lines for congressional and legislative districts. 

In his testimony, Boswell pointed out that the 2010 Census had Harlingen’s population down as 64,849. He said the city’s own estimates had the population pegged at 75,000.

“Since then the State Demographer’s Office with a little help from Harlingen estimated that the Harlingen population increased to 68,328 residents or 5.4 percent increase from 2010 to 2019,” Boswell said.

“That compares reasonably with Brownsville’s increase of 6.1 percent over the same time frame. And for Cameron County’s increase of 4.8 percent.”

Where Boswell finds fault with the State Demographer’s Office is the recent rate of population increase.

“From 2018 to 2019 the State Demographer estimated that Cameron County grew by 22 residents, which really does not make any kind of common sense,” Boswell said. “I think that the data would determine otherwise, that we have grown by more than that many residents.”

Boswell said Harlingen has done its own analysis.

“We have got our own analysis of our population growth using similar factors that the State Demographer uses. Using data from the Cameron County and the 9-1-1 district office, we estimate that we have 32,063 households in Harlingen, including apartments and houses,” Boswell said.

“Using the standard recognized multiplier per household of 2.95 that would bring our population estimate to 94,596.”

That figure ties in with the estimates provided by a local electric supplier.

“AEP, the local electrical service supplier, says that we have 32,637 individual residential connections. Using that same multiplier of 2.95 per household, that gives you a total population of 96,279,” Boswell explained.

“The Census deducts 15 percent from those numbers but even with the 15 percent deduction, that would put Harlingen at an 81,000 population. That would mean that we are really being undercounted by at least 25 percent.”

Boswell said he believes there is “plenty of other data” which would indicate that Harlingen has a much greater population number than that estimated by the State Demographer.

“I believe the same analysis could be utilized by many other cities throughout the Rio Grande Valley, using objective factors like these connections, 9-1-1 hookups. We just know that there is more population in our communities,” Boswell said.

Harlingen is currently represented by state Reps. Eddie Lucio, III, and Oscar Longoria in the Texas House. Boswell said they provide “outstanding representation.”

“But, as a whole, our region is undercounted and we hope that as we move through this process adjustments can be made to recognize the large population in the Rio Grande Valley and in the city of Harlingen,” Boswell added. 

Lloyd B. Potter, the Texas State Demographer, also participated in the Senate virtual hearing and would likely have heard Boswell’s remarks. At a Senate Committee on Redistricting virtual hearing last week, Potter predicted that the Census Bureau would undercount the Valley’s population. 

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows a screen shot of Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell testifying at a virtual hearing of the Senate Committee on Redistricting.

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