Making census


Dear Ace: What’s up with all the babies on the Downtown Mall? Has Charlottesville experienced a recent population explosion? Lately all I see are strollers when I walk Downtown.—Martin Shortie

Martin: Ace knows what it’s like to stumble down the Mall after one too many whiskey sours and then trip over a double-wide stroller. And lately it seems like the babies multiply in direct proportion to the number of drinks imbibed. Or perhaps Ace is just more likely to gravitate towards hot moms after a long day of conducting research at the bars. In any case, Ace agrees with your initial assessment. Is the baby population increasing? Are Charlottesville parents on a reproduction binge? And can they please tell their children to stop being so judgmental? Lots of professional people have trouble navigating the Discovery Museum’s carousel on a full tank of booze.

In order to answer this question properly, Ace approached that most holy and underappreciated of pencil pushing institutions, the U.S. Census Bureau. Because the next full census isn’t due until 2010, Ace had to crunch his numbers based on unofficial population estimates for 2005-2007. For this time period, the American Community Survey describes the average family size in Charlottesville as 3.13 persons, whereas the official 2000 Census tally is 2.85 persons. Even Ace’s mathematically challenged mind immediately recognized this as growth. Yet the total Charlottesville population has decreased from 45,049 in 2000 to an estimated 41,015 in 2007. This means that the overall population has gone down while average family size has slightly increased. But according to Ace’s fervent calculations, on the whole it seems that fertility remains steady at around 390 new diminutive city dwellers per year (382 born in 2006; 1,981 children under 5 in 2000). In conclusion, Ace’s brain hurts and not much has changed in the baby department. Except for maybe that .28 child increase. But isn’t that just a lap dog anyway?

So the good news is that Ace and his bachelor compatriots shouldn’t feel the pressure to settle down just yet. The babies aren’t taking over. Ace’s favorite bars will not be converted into padded play areas anytime soon (although perhaps they should, if you know what Ace means). The bad news is that when the warm weather arrives, whatever babies dwell in Charlottesville will assemble on the Downtown Mall. This means Ace can’t be caught swearing in public or making amusing faces at the stroller rats; either could irreparably damage his golden reputation.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to