Berke, Richard. "Census Bureau Demographer's Unqualified Prediction: ‘We Will Be Wrong,'"
New York Times, 5 February 1989, p. 30.
The Times sought comment from the author of the Census Bureau's latest population projections
and he replied that there was only one certainty in making population projections: "We will be
wrong, I guarantee you. Unforeseen things will happen." Here is a clear statement of some of the
imponderables involved in making projections. This 1988 report disagrees sharply with the last
estimate made in 1984. Of course, the longer the projection, the less likely its continuity or the
Some census estimates are quite simple and quite correct. In estimating the number of 18-year
olds in 1999, one need only count the number of 8 year olds now and estimate attrition. But
estimating birth rates, or trying to estimate whether or not illegal immigration will stop or be
halted, is quite different.
The Bureau has its computers grind out various projections and this year is making some 29
other possible projections based on different assumptions. Population could be 302 million in
2038, but the figure could be as low as 248 million if deaths from AIDS increase and births