Three Key Takeaways From the 2020 Census Data Release

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released demographic data from the 2020 Census that paints a detailed picture of America’s diverse communities. The local-level data was shared with all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and has kickstarted the 2021 redistricting cycle.

States and localities use the data to redraw federal, state, and local legislative district boundaries that will shape each state’s elections for the next decade. The process is meant to ensure that as populations grow and change, every American continues to have equal representation and equal voice in government.

The data release provides the first detailed look in ten years at the demographic characteristics of communities. The data includes the breakdown of race and ethnicity, voting-age population, occupied and vacant housing units, and people living in group quarters, such as nursing homes, prisons, military barracks, and college dorms, of the nation’s communities by state, county, and city.

By understanding the makeup of our communities, we can ensure everyone has a voice and representation in our government. When everyone has equal representation and we secure a government accountable to the people, we have the electoral power to vote for the issues we care about most-stronger schools, better roads, more affordable healthcare, and so much more.

Here’s What We Know So Far 

The 2020 Census found that America saw the slowest population growth since the 1930s. Over the last ten years, the United States grew by 22.7 million people.

Here’s what we know about the population from the U.S. Census Bureau’s data release:

Our nation is more diverse than it has ever been. Population growth over the last ten years was driven primarily by Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations. The Asian American population grew by 35 percent while the Hispanic/Latino population grew by 23 percent in the last decade. Additionally, the African American population grew by 5.6 percent since 2010. While White Americans remained the largest race or ethnicity group in the United States, with 204.3 million people identifying as White alone.

Overall, 235.4 million people reported White alone or in combination with another group. However, the White alone population decreased as a percentage of the total population by 8.6 percent since 2010.

In addition, the Two or More Races population (also referred to as the Multiracial population) has changed considerably since 2010. The Multiracial population was measured at 9 million people in 2010 and is now at 33.8 million people in 2020, a 276 percent increase.

The U.S. Census Bureau also implemented a new way to measure the diversity of America called the Diversity Index. The Diversity Index measures the likelihood that two people from the same are are of a different race or ethnicity. At the national level, the Diversity Index was 61.1 percent, meaning that there is a 61.1 percent chance that two people chosen at random are from a different race or ethnicity. Hawaii had the largest Diversity Index among the states at 76.0%, followed by California with 69.7 %, and Nevada with 68.8%.

The increasing diversity of the United States makes it more important than ever that state redistricting process prioritizes protecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other communities of people of color. Historically, these groups have been left out of the redistricting process or, worse, been cracked or packed for the partisan benefit of one party or the other. The best way to ensure that our new voting district maps prioritize protecting these communities is for all of us to tell the story of our community to map drawers in our state.

Most of our country’s growth is concentrated in western and southern  metro areas. On average, smaller counties tended to lose population and more populous counties tended to grow. 52% of all counties were smaller in 2020, than in 2010.Most of the population growth was in the West and South and was concentrated in cities and suburbs. On average, smaller counties tended to lose population and more populous counties tended to grow. Fifty-two percent of all counties had fewer residents in 2020 than in 2010.  In contrast, 81.25% U.S. metro areas gained population between 2010 and 2020 and 18.75% of U.S. metro areas lost population from the 2010 Census to the 2020 Census. The U.S. metro areas with the largest percentage declines were Pine Bluff, AR, and Danville, IL, at -12.5 percent and -9.1 percent, respectively. 

The largest county in the United States in 2020 remains Los Angeles County with over 10 million people. The largest city (incorporated place) in the United States in 2020 remains New York with 8.8 million people. The fastest-growing U.S. metro area between the 2010 Census and 2020 Census was The Villages, FL, which grew 39% from about 93,000 people to about 130,000 people. 

The adult population of the United States is growing more quickly than the population of the country as a whole. According to the 2020 Census, 77.9% of the U.S. population is over the age of 18, which means that 23.1% of the population are children. The percentage of the U.S. adult population has increased over the last few decades, from about 74% in 2000 and 76% in 2010.

At its core, redistricting is the process of drawing new voting district maps that incorporate population changes like the ones listed above so that our districts are responsive, representative, and equitable for the next decade. It will take all of us sharing the stories of our communities, holding legislators and redistricting commissions accountable, and educating our friends and neighbors about the process. Together we can ensure our voting maps for the next decade prioritize We the People, not politicians.