Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Few Surprises in the First 2020 Census Results

April 1, 2020, was undoubtedly one of the worst times to conduct a decennial census. Just a few weeks before Census Day, on March 13, the United States had declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses were closed down. States were in lockdown. Students fled college campuses and returned to their hometowns. It was a mess. That's why we've waited so long for 2020 census numbers—the Census Bureau has been busy ensuring that the "2020 census results meet our high quality standards." Yesterday, the first results were released—population counts for the nation as a whole and the 50 states. 

The 2020 census counts differ from the Census Bureau's 2020 population estimates in some surprising ways... 

  • Population growth was greater than estimated. The Census Bureau had estimated a 2020 population of 329 million—6.7 percent more U.S. residents than in 2010. This would have made the 2010s the slowest decade of growth in U.S. history. Instead, the 2020 Census counted 331,440,281 U.S. residents as of April 1, 2020. This is nearly 2 million more than estimated, resulting in a growth rate of 7.4 percent for the decade. Consequently, the 2010s was not the slowest decade of growth in U.S. history but the second slowest. The 1930s retains its position as the decade of slowest growth, when the population grew by 7.3 percent.
  • Some of the fastest-growing states did not grow quite as fast as estimated. Arizona, for example, was estimated to have grown by 16 percent over the decade, but the 2020 census reveals the state's growth to have been a smaller 12 percent, with 270,000 fewer people living in the state in 2020 than had been estimated. Similarly, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas came up short as well. While these states grew faster than most others, they did not grow quite as fast as estimated.
  • Some of the slowest-growing states gained more people than estimated. The population of New Jersey, for example, was estimated to have grown by 1 percent between 2010 and 2020. But the 2020 census shows that New Jersey's population grew by a much larger 5.7 percent—407,700 more people than had been estimated. Similarly, rather than declining by 0.2 percent over the decade, New York State's population grew by 4.2 percent—an additional 864,000 people. The pattern is the same for Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. 
  • Only three states lost population during the decade rather than the five estimated. The losing states were Illinois (-0.1 percent), Mississippi (-0.2 percent), and West Virginia (-3.2 percent). Connecticut and New York had been estimated to lose population but instead made gains. 
Source: Census Bureau, 2020 Census Apportionment Results

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