Challenge Program and Results


The U. S. Census Bureau prepares annual estimates of total population for states, counties and all other units of general purpose government. Governmental units, including states, counties and units of local government may challenge the population estimates prepared by the Census Bureau under the provisions of Title 15, The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Part 90.1

How the Process Works

A state or local government can request information from the Census Bureau about how to challenge its population estimate and the components used to derive the population estimate for its jurisdiction for the most recent year. Governments interested in this information should contact Population Division by:

Telephone: Letter: E-mail:
(301) 763-2461 Population Division
Population Estimates Program
U.S. Census Bureau
H.Q. 6H480
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233

The Census Bureau will mail materials to the locality, including a Review Guide and appendices, which contain descriptions of the methods used to prepare county and subcounty population estimates, we also will include the derivation of current year population estimates for your jurisdiction. The Review Guide provides the procedures for states or governmental units to follow in challenging population estimates produced by the Census Bureau. The evidence required for a challenge, informal or formal, must comply with the Review Guide.

Initiating the Challenge

If a governmental unit wishes to challenge a population estimate prepared by the Census Bureau, the governmental unit's chief executive officer or highest elected official must initiate the informal challenge process by:

The Census Bureau requests that the challenge packages be received no later than October 1 of the year in which the estimate was released. Doing so will allow staff enough time to review the challenge, to resolve any questions about the challenge, to notify localities of the results, and to incorporate successful challenges into the following year's population estimates. The Census Bureau cannot guarantee that challenges received after October 1 will be included in the following year's estimates.

In any instance in which a local government and the Census Bureau cannot resolve a challenge through the informal procedures described above, the governmental unit may file a formal challenge.

Challenge Results

Results of challenges to previously released estimates are listed here.

2007 challenges
2006 challenges
2005 challenges
2004 challenges
2003 challenges
2002 challenges
2001 challenges

Handling Legal Boundary Issues or the Reporting of Building Permits

If during the course of the challenge, the local government is dissatisfied with the recording of their legal boundaries or building permits, the following options are open to them:

The geographic boundaries of governmental units are updated through the Boundary and Annexation Survey (BAS). If a local government wants to participate in the BAS or if they have a question regarding their boundaries, they should contact the BAS Unit of the Census Bureau's Geography Division on 301-763-1099 or e-mail them at

Subcounty population estimates are produced using building permit data gathered from a survey conducted by the Census Bureau's Residential Construction Branch. If a local government is not being contacted by this survey or if they disagree with the collected data, they may contact the Residential Construction Branch on 301-763-5160.

1 The regulations set out in 15 C.F.R. Ch. 1 Part 90 apply to any state or local government challenging Census Bureau estimates. Some of the more significant provisions are as follows:

  1. An "informal challenge" (one in which the Census Bureau and the locality attempt to resolve the challenge on an informal basis) must be filed within 180 days after release of the estimate by the Census Bureau.

  2. In the event that the challenge cannot be resolved informally, the Chief, Population Division, Census Bureau, will inform the state or local government in writing of the reasons for the outcome and of its right to proceed formally.

  3. A "formal challenge" (one in which an opportunity for a hearing is provided in accordance with provisions in C.F.R. Part 90) may be filed if the informal challenge fails to resolve the issue. A formal challenge must be filed within 30 days of the date of receipt of the letter from the Chief of the Population Division advising of the right to proceed formally.

  4. Upon filing a "formal challenge," the state or local government has a right to a hearing or may elect to proceed without a hearing. Testimony may be taken at the hearing and relevant documentary evidence introduced.