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By Susan Roth Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 12, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Guam and the other Pacific territories, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands, are treated as foreign countries by the Census Bureau, but officials say it’s strictly for logistical reasons.

Puerto Rico, meanwhile, is treated as a state.

In 1998, the responsibility for yearly population estimates and projections for the territories moved from the domestic side of the Census Bureau to the International Programs Center, a part of the bureau’s population division.

As a result, the international center is processing and reviewing 2000 census data for the territories, which the Census Bureau calls "outlying areas."

"It kind of made sense," said William Wannall, an analyst with the international center. "We have more of an intimate knowledge of the data from those areas. This was not a major policy issue. It’s strictly a logistical thing."

The annual population estimates and projections handled by the international center also include Puerto Rico, but Wannall said the Census Bureau is treating the territory more as a state in the 2000 census than ever before "for no reason at all. It’s just done this way."

Other census officials couldn’t be reached.

The International Programs Center has long been partially funded by the Office of Insular Affairs at the Interior Department, which deals with territorial issues, Wannall said. Other federal agencies, international groups, nongovernmental organizations, private businesses and other governments also kick in funding.

The center keeps an international database of population figures, it annually updates worldwide population estimates and projections, and it conducts demographic and socioeconomic studies all over the world. Its staff includes a Pacific expert who spends at least half his time in the islands, Wannall said.

"It’s just the terminology," said Guam Delegate Robert Underwood. "They call us an insular area, an outlying area, a territorial area. This has been a consistent feature of the government. We’re not an international area, obviously. This is another manifestation of the government seeing us as separate from the United States. But in this case, there is no meaning other than the terminology."

Underwood said he is concerned about the territories being identified as foreign countries, but he would be more worried if the Census Bureau was somehow mistreating the territories in the enumeration and data review process.

"In this case, they probably spent more money on us per capita than on the mainland," he said, referring to the fact that the Census Bureau sent enumerators to every home on Guam to get an accurate picture of the island’s population.

Only the long census form was used, with Guam-specific questions negotiated between the local and federal governments ahead of time. Such questions asked about home construction, to tell the local government how many houses could withstand a typhoon, Underwood said. Residents could also choose from among many more ethnic categories to identify themselves.

The Census Bureau is expected to release data from Guam and the other territories starting in June and continuing through the summer.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam). 

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