Making the Housing Unit Method Work: An Evaluation of 2010 Population Estimates in Florida

Publication Date: 
Friday, January 11, 2013

The housing unit (HU) method—in which population estimates are derived
fromestimates of occupiedHUs—is themost commonly usedmethod formaking smallarea
population estimates in the United States. It is widely used because it is conceptually
simple, can utilize a wide variety of data sources, can be applied at virtually any
level of geography, and often produces reliable estimates. Yet the HU method is more
nearly a general approach to population estimation than it is a specific methodology. In
this paper,we describe and evaluate several data sources and estimation techniques that
can be used in applying the HU method. Using a set of county and subcounty estimates
produced by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) at the University
of Florida for April 1, 2010, we analyze errors by population size and growth rate,
calculate errors for each of the three components of the HUmethod, and investigate the
accuracy of estimates based on several different data sources and estimation techniques.
We compare the accuracy of the 2010 estimates with previous BEBR estimates and
estimates produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. We conclude that although some data
sources and estimation techniques work better than others, the HU method can be
tailored to produce reliable population estimates for a wide variety of geographic areas.

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