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Last Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau made a shocking announcement: The District of Columbia currently has a population of 572,059 people, down just 5.7 percent from 1990. That decline was nowhere near the apocalyptic 14 percent plunge that the bureau had predicted less than a year ago. How could the projections have been so wrong? The Washington City Paper has learned that bureau demographers, in a departure from normal practice, did not base their forecasts on sophisticated statistical modeling and demographic analysis. Instead, anonymous sources deep inside the bureau say, census experts downed a cup of java each morning, scanned the news headlines, and adjusted their numbers accordingly.

Headline Census estimate

District homicide rate peaks at 489 (1991)Subtract 489, subtract bodies not reported, subtract those who consider themselves extremely “risk-averse”

Net change: -20,489

Bill Clinton elected president (1992) Add vast “right-wing conspiracy”

Net change: +10

Reader’s Digest misshapes D.C. (1993)Subtract a few lopped-off neighborhoodsNet change: -35,000

Marion S. Barry Jr. re-elected after serving Subtract residents of Ward 3

prison sentence (1994)who just can’t “get over it”

Net change: -9,000

Financial World calls D.C.’s governmentSubtract people who are surprised

worst-run in country (1995)Net change: 0

Mayor Barry coronated as king of Add Sikensi emigres who want to be Sikensi during visit to Ivory Coast (1995)close to their leader

Net change: +83

Congress creates control board (1995)Add consultantsNet change: +1,500

Jesse Jackson resigns as shadow senatorSubtract Jesse Jackson

(1996)Net change: -1

D.C. woman gives birth to sextuplets (1997)Add 6

Net change: +6

Hugh G. Rection found on voter rolls Add Hugh G. Rection

(1997)Net change: +1

D.C. Public Schools fail to open on time Subtract parents and kids fed up and (1997)moving to Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Arlington counties

Net change: -25,000

Anthony A. Williams elected mayor (1998)Add First Mother Virginia Williams

Net change: +1

Voters approve hybrid school board (2000)Add residents who think this will make any difference in quality of D.C. public schools

Net change: 0

Fresh Fields opens on P Street NW (2000)Add uppity shoppers and organic fiends doped up on St. John’s Wort

Net change: +3,000