Maryland’s population grew by 7% in the past decade, one of its slowest paces ever, according to U.S Census Bureau data released Monday.
The figures were released as part of the once-in-a-decade process of redistributing the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among states. They showed that Maryland will keep its eight seats.
“I assured the president that the census was complete and accurate,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at a news conference announcing the results.
Maryland’s growth over the past decade mirrored the rate of the nation’s population increase, which grew 7.4% since 2010, a historically slow pace.
The state’s population stands at 6,177,224 people. That is up 403,672 people from 2010.
Maryland’s growth rate by decade was the slowest since the 1830s.
In recent decades, Maryland’s population had jumped by 9% from 2000 to 2010, and by 10.8% the 10 years before that.
Despite the slower growth, Maryland is now the 18th most populous state, up from the 19th.
Nationally, the census results showed that U.S. population growth was the slowest since the 1930s. It now stands at 331,449,281.
“The U.S. is an aging population, and countries around the world that are aging have been slowing in their decade-to-decade changes,” said Michael Rendall, director of the Maryland Population Research Center and a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The figures were publicly released after unprecedented delays, with census operations complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s handling of the count. The deadline for the tally abruptly changed several times under the former president.
The census bureau was legally required to deliver state population totals by Dec. 31 but said it could not meet that deadline.
At the news conference Monday, census officials expressed confidence in the accuracy of the data.
“We have taken the time we needed to produce the high-quality statistics that we and the public expect,” said Ron Jarmin, the agency’s acting director. “While no census is perfect, we are confident that today’s 2020 Census results meet our high data quality standards. We would not be releasing them to you otherwise.”
More detailed information showing each state’s population by demographic factors such race and age — plus the population of cities and counties — is not expected to be released until August. That data will be used to redraw congressional districts.
Maryland is the 22nd fastest growing state relative to population. It grew faster than neighboring Pennsylvania, whose population increased 2.4%. West Virginia, meanwhile, lost 3.2% of its population.
But several neighbors grew faster than Maryland. Virginia had a 7.9% increase in population, Delaware a 10.2% increase and Washington, D.C., a 14.6% increase.
Rendall said that when compared to previous annual population estimates, the new census results show “we’ve underestimated how much the population has been growing.”
“The comparison to the 2019 estimates suggests that there are more people living in the U.S. than we thought there were, and that’s also true of Maryland,” he said.
The nation saw the most growth in the South (a 10.2% increase in population) and the West (9.2%).
The demographic changes shift political power to states in those regions.
Texas will gain two seats in the House of Representatives. Five states will gain one seat each: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon.
Seven will lose one seat each: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In addition to determining how many congressional representatives each state gets, the census figures affect how billions of dollars in federal funds are allocated.
The Trump administration wanted to shorten the census count last year, touching off concerns that the data would not be accurate and that communities of color and other historically hard-to-count populations would be undercounted.
Maryland had one of the nation’s highest response rates to the census, but within the state, the rates varied widely by county.
Amid the pandemic last year, community groups and local governments in Maryland worked to reach historically hard-to-count populations through outreach activities and public messaging.
Last week, the census bureau reached a settlement with a coalition of civil rights groups and tribal and local governments that had sued over Trump’s attempt to cut the census short. Among the requirements of the settlement are that the federal government will provide regular reports of its quality reviews of Census 2020 data.