Almost daily, 2010 census data are being released state by state. Most of the resulting census stories have an unreal feeling about them; they are a throwback to earlier times of heady growth in the once booming South and West. For trend spotters, it is our bad luck that the two censuses occurred on either side of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Any analysis of change between 2000 and 2010 will miss the dislocations caused by the Great Recession.
Arizona's population grew 25 percent during the decade, for example. But does anyone think Arizona has been growing recently? The population of Phoenix was up 9 percent between 2000 and 2010, yet it is probably losing people now. Population experts in Arizona say the state has grown little, if at all, for the past three years.
We will have to wait another year or two before we have up-to-date data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey that will reveal the trends ushered in by the Great Recession. While the census gives us a good snapshot of the population in 2010, it cannot give us an accurate picture of current trends.