The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to release the latest 2020 numbers this Thursday, revealing population trends of the last decade.
So far, the preliminary data from the 2020 census has revealed a stagnation in population growth nationwide, with the U.S. growth rate at its slowest since the Great Depression. Maryland also had its slowest rate since 1830s.
Here’s what we expect to learn from the census.
I thought the 2020 Census had already been released. What is new about this data?
In April, the bureau released the population totals for every state, which determined the redistribution of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among states. Maryland had a population growth of 7%, neither losing nor gaining seats.
The bureau also puts outs population estimates every year, but those are independent of the once-every-ten-years census and are not considered the “official” tally.
“To get the full magnitude of how diversity is changing in the United States at all levels of geography and all of the states, I think that’s something you really need the Census,” said William H. Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at Brookings Institution.
This week, the bureau will release more detailed data, including population of cities and counties and race and age demographics — and how they’ve changed over the past decade.
What will the census reveal? What are experts looking to find?
Frey used bureau surveys to pinpoint possible demographic trends in the 2020 census. He identified five trends:
An unprecedented stagnation in population growth, which began after Great Recession and more recently due to immigration restrictions. The last decade seemed to have had more deaths and fewer births, with uneven immigration, and it might have been slower than the 2000-to-2010 decade.
A decrease in geographical mobility, with the smaller rate of Americans changing residences since 1947. This estimate was from a year before the pandemic.
An aging population, with the number of people over the age of 55 increasing by 27%, while population under 55 saw a growth of 1.3%.
A decline in the size of people identifying as white, the first time since 1790, and a rise in racial and ethnic diversity among millennials, Gen Z and younger generations.
In Maryland, Frey said the population estimates also suggest the state could have a majority nonwhite population with 49.5% identifying as white, 30.1% Black, 10.8% Latino or Hispanic, 6.8% Asian and 2.8% as other.
Almost 55% of Marylanders identified as white in the 2010 census, a 7.4 percentage points decrease from the 2000 census.
We’ll also learn how much Baltimore’s population has declined over the last decade and which counties — Charles? Frederick? Somewhere else? — grew the fastest.
Interesting. But how does the census impact me?
Besides dividing the 435 U.S. House seats among the states, the official purpose is to provide information for the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts for the next decade’s elections. But Frey says it’s also useful for local officials, policymakers and private sector companies to know about the demographics and geography of the population when making decisions that will impact their communities.
The government also distributes federal funding for programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Head Start based on census data.
Did the COVID-19 pandemic impact census numbers?
Not very much, according to Frey. The pandemic began about a month before census day, he said. It could have impacted people reporting to census, he said, but death and birth numbers were likely not affected.
Local groups leading the census efforts said the pandemic and changing deadlines made the count more difficult.
Can I access these numbers?
Probably not right away. The data will be in raw form, which means it’s not in a format that’s easy to search for most users. But the census will deliver more easily readable data by Sept. 30.
The raw data will require a lot of analysis, Frey said. Researchers will be analyzing these numbers for the next year or two.
“People should be interested in how their community looks and how it compares to other parts of the country, how it’s changed,” he added.