All Things Census
The Census Bureau began a gigantic release of 2010 Census data today, publishing detailed race, Hispanic and population totals down to the block level for Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. The bureau will release data for the remaining states (and District of Columbia) over the next two months, with the final state numbers due out before April 1.
The legal purpose of this data is that it will be used as the basis for redrawing the boundaries of political districts within states, from congressional districts to local government boards. But the numbers also will have a fascinating story to tell about racial change, dispersion of the Hispanic population nationwide, population growth or decline and other themes.
A few of the earliest news stories include: Hispanics largest minority in New Jersey in the Star-Ledger; Asian and Hispanic populations skyrocket in Virginia in The Washington Post; New Orleans population drops since 2000 in the Times-Picayune; and Mississippi coast population loss not as great as feared in the Biloxi Sun Herald.
How well did the Census Bureau’s population estimates for the first decade of the 21st century match the actual counts from the 2010 Census? The short answer: Pretty well for the nation, and for all but a handful of states.
The accuracy of these population estimates is important because the numbers, which are released each year in between the once-a-decade census counts, are the basis for distributing billions of dollars in federal funds and are the denominators for rates used in some federal surveys. Unlike the census, which counts people directly, the estimates are assembled using government data, including birth and death certificates, immigration estimates and tax-return statistics on people who changed residences.
As Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves pointed out in a news conference today, it greatly increases confidence in the census count if population numbers that are derived using different methods are similar. Groves said it reflects well on 2010 Census accuracy that the 2010 Census count for the nation, 308,745,538, was close to the bureau’s national population estimate of 308,977,944 on Census Day (April 1, 2010). The 2010 national count also matched up well with population estimates the bureau released last month using demographic analysis, an alternative measurement technique that uses a method somewhat similar to that used in the population estimates.
Digging into the estimates data, Pew Research Center demographer Jeffrey Passel has analyzed how the bureau’s population estimates for states compare with the official 2010 Census counts for states. He began with state estimates for July 1, 2009 (the latest available), and projected them forward to Census Day based on average growth rates for each state for 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. (This method produces a slightly different total for the nation than the Census Bureau computed, 309,081,328.) Read more
A decade ago, the apportionment counts from the 2000 Census showed that North Carolina was the luckiest state in the country. Based on its population gains, it won the last seat in Congress, the 435th. In 2010, though, North Carolina’s fortunes were not as good.
When the 2010 Census apportionment counts were announced last month, they showed that North Carolina fell short of winning the 435th or last seat. This time, the 435th went to Minnesota. (If it is any comfort to North Carolinians, the state would have gained the theoretical 436th seat in Congress, if one existed.)
Census numbers are used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives using a formula that assigns each state one seat, and, one at a time, allocates the remaining 385 places. The allocation is based on the size of each state’s resident population, plus any overseas military and civilian federal workers (and dependents) from that state.
In 2010, North Carolina fell nearly 15,800 people short of the number it would have needed to win the last seat instead of having it go to Minnesota, according to calculations by Pew Research Center senior demographer Jeffrey Passel. Read more
When the Census Bureau announced the first population totals from the 2010 Census for the nation (308.7 million) and for states on Dec. 21, the numbers did not include ethnic or race breakdowns. Those will be released later this year. A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center, using other Census Bureau data, concludes that Latinos played a key role in growth of the nation’s population and growth in states that gained congressional seats because of reapportionment, which is based on census numbers.
Using 2009 population estimates from the American Community Survey, Hispanics accounted for 51% of the nation’s population growth since the 2000 Census, which counted 281 million U.S. residents. From 2000 to 2010, the nation’s population grew 9.7%. From 2000 to 2009 (the last year available), the Hispanic population grew 37%.
Looking at population change for each state and the District of Columbia, Hispanics represent a greater share of eligible voter and resident populations in states that will gain congressional seats than in those states that will lose congressional seats, the report concludes. Hispanics represent 15.2% of eligible voters in the eight states that gained congressional seats, compared with 5.4% of eligible voters in the 10 states that lost congressional seats, according to estimates based on the 2009 American Community Survey. (Eligible voters are defined as U.S. citizens who are 18 years or older.) Latinos also represent 23.6% of the resident populations in states that gained seats, compared with 8.4% in states that lost seats.
The report makes the point that because many Latinos are either too young to vote or are not U.S. citizens, their population growth has not translated fully into electoral strength. However, the report states, “the electoral strength of the nation’s largest minority group will continue to grow in the coming decades.”