Population Research and Policy Review 23: 1–24, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
An evaluation of population estimates in Florida: April 1, 2000
STANLEY K. SMITH & SCOTT CODY
University of Florida
Abstract. The housing unit (HU) method is the most commonly used method for making
small-area population estimates in the United States. These estimates are used for a wide
variety of budgeting, planning, and analytical purposes. Given their importance, periodic
evaluations of their accuracy are essential. In this article, we evaluate the accuracy of a set
of HU population estimates for counties and subcounty areas in Florida, as of April 1, 2000.
We investigate the inﬂuence of differences in population size and growth rate on estimation
errors; compare the accuracy of several alternative techniques for estimating each of the major
components of the HU method; compare the accuracy of 2000 estimates with that of estimates
produced in 1980 and 1990; compare the accuracy of HU population estimates with that of
estimates derived from other estimation methods; consider the role of professional judgment
and the use of averaging in the construction of population estimates; and explore the impact of
controlling one set of estimates to another. Our results conﬁrm a number of ﬁndings that have
been reported before and provide empirical evidence on several issues that have received little
attention in the literature. We conclude with several observations regarding future directions
in population estimation research.
Keywords: Accuracy, Census data, Demographic estimates, Estimation error, Housing unit
The Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) at the University
of Florida has made population estimates for all cities and counties in Flor-
ida each year since 1972. These estimates are used for monitoring growth
trends, choosing site locations, determining eligibility for government pro-
grams, tracking emerging markets, and studying urban sprawl. They form the
basis for distributing more than $1.5 billion each year to local governments
through the state’s revenue-sharing program. They even affect the salaries of
some public ofﬁcials. It is not surprising that these estimates are of so much
interest to so many people.
BEBR uses the housing unit (HU) method to construct population estim-
ates. This is by far the most commonly used method for making small-area
population estimates in the United States. A 1990 survey of state and local
agencies preparing population estimates found that 89% used the HU method,