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Census Updates: Survey Shows Which Cities Gained and Lost Population

Census Updates Survey Shows Which Cities Gained and Lost Population
Date Posted: Thursday, August 12th, 2021

The government released data from the 2020 census showing large increases in the populations of people who identify as Hispanic, Asian and more than one race.

Here’s what you need to know:

*No large city grew faster than Phoenix.

*New York City adds 629,000 people, defying predictions of its decline.

*The growth along the corridor between San Antonio and Austin is ‘kind of mind-blowing.’

*Diversity rises in Georgia, with whites making up only half the state.

*Boston grew swiftly over the decade, as its white population waned.

*While Democrats eye urban gains, Republicans will rely on drawing favorable districts.

*A rise in Hispanic and Asian population fuels U.S. growth, census reports.

*Americans kept migrating to cities, leaving rural areas depopulated.

*A fight over political redistricting looms, with control of Congress potentially hanging in the balance.

*Some fear the pandemic and political turmoil may have affected the count.

No large city grew faster than Phoenix.

The census numbers confirmed the scorching pace of growth in Phoenix.

Arizona’s desert capital grew at the fastest rate among America’s biggest cities, vaulting it ahead of Philadelphia to officially become the fifth-biggest city in the United States since the last census.

Phoenix’s population grew from 1.4 million people in 2010 to 1.6 million in 2020, a rate of 11.2 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

The increase has been fueled not just by immigration and sun-seeking retirees but also by the arrival of tech companies and middle-class families from California and other more expensive parts of the country seeking more affordable housing.

The Phoenix metro area continued to sprawl outward into the desert, with outlying suburbs such as Buckeye growing by nearly 80 percent over the past 10 years. But Phoenix is also growing up, booming with new condo towers and rowhouses filling in the downtown.

All this growth has raised anxieties about how the region will supply enough water for all the new residents and their yards when brutal droughts and hotter summers are draining rivers and reservoirs.

The population boom across Phoenix and surrounding Maricopa County has also translated into a political shift. President Biden narrowly won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes last November, eking out a win in what had once been a reliably Republican presidential state.

— Jack Healy

New York City adds 629,000 people, defying predictions of its decline.

New York City has grown by more than 629,000 people — or nearly 8 percent — since 2010, reaching 8.8 million and defying predictions that its population was on the decline.

“The Big Apple just got bigger!” Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter, attributing the growth to his administration’s investment in prekindergarten programs, safe streets and working families.

But city officials said the increase was at least in part a result of getting a better count.

In recent years, New York’s Department of City Planning, which supplies data to the Census Bureau, added 265,000 housing units that had been missing from the bureau’s list, including both “hard to find” and newly constructed units.

“This allowed the Census Bureau to enumerate half a million people which they would have otherwise missed,” said Arun Peter Lobo, New York City’s chief demographer. “Because we told them, they knew exactly where to go.”

He said the population growth was “a shot in the arm” for a city struggling to recover from the pandemic and a reminder of its strength. Even taking into account the possible loss of population during the pandemic, the city was thriving, he said.

“The decline of New York City has been foretold very often — incorrectly,” he said. “I understand that this is largely a pre-Covid population, but adding over 600,000 people is like adding the population of Miami. It’s huge.”

Each of the city’s five boroughs grew, with Brooklyn and Queens being the most populous. The Bronx’s population reached a record of 1.47 million, surpassing its 1970 high. Brooklyn, with 2.74 million people, came in only 2,000 people shy of its 1950 peak. With the new census figures, New York City now accounts for nearly 44 percent of the state’s total population.

Population estimates from the last few years seemed to suggest that the city was shrinking. (The population grew rapidly over the first half of the decade, but began to decline after 2016.) Those estimates, however, were most likely based on incorrect data, according to the Department of City Planning.

— Annie Correal

The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, was the fastest-growing metro area over the last decade.

MIAMI — Amid a slowing of overall population growth in the United States, a Florida retirement community continued its rise to the top of the population charts: The Villages, a sprawling master-planned community in Central Florida, was the fastest-growing metropolitan area over the last decade, according to census data released Thursday.

About a 45-minute drive from Orlando, the area’s population jumped 39 percent since 2010 — from about 93,000 residents to about 130,000. The growth was fueled in large part by a steady stream of retirees lured by Florida’s year-round balmy weather, beaches, and endless golfing. The community, a collection of homes and villages, has made the fastest-growing list of metropolitan cities for several decades.

Its most recent growth spurt helped fuel Florida’s overall rise in population, which yielded an additional Congressional seat.

Built in the 1960s as a collection of tracts that could be purchased by mail order, The Villages skyrocketed in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s as it expanded to include large-scale dining, shopping, and other leisure activities, becoming a palm tree-lined, self-contained home for seniors beginning their next chapter.

The Villages stretches across three counties but is mostly in Sumter County. It includes three ZIP codes, along with multiple town squares, movie theaters, grocery stores, and libraries.

The Villages is mostly white and conservative, and over the years has become a familiar campaign stop for Republican candidates.

— Audra D. S. Burch

The census data tells Pine Bluff, Ark., what it already knew: It’s shrinking, quickly.

The bad news for Pine Bluff, Ark., embedded in Thursday’s new census data, did not come much of a shock for civic leaders there: Their metro area saw a 12.5 percent population decline between 2010 and 2020, the largest percentage drop of any metro area in that period.

The city now has about 87,500 residents, down from just over 100,000 a decade ago.

But Pine Bluff residents have been living with a palpable sense of loss for years. A 2016 New York Times story recounted an ill-fated effort to use inmates and parolees to tear down hundreds of blighted, unoccupied homes.

Set among fields of grains, beans, peas, and cotton, Pine Bluff epitomizes the kinds of struggle that many smaller American hub cities have gone through in recent decades, first with the mechanization of agriculture, which reduced the need for field hands, and then foreign competition and outsourcing, which has dealt repeated blows to Pine Bluff’s manufacturing base.

These twin forces have sent the city into a tailspin from which Pine Bluff has been unable to recover. “The economy continued to change, kids continued to leave,” State Representative Vivian Flowers, who represents the area, said in an interview Thursday. “And so then your tax base shrinks, and your ability to deal with infrastructure and beautify the city — all of that suffered.”

The state recently stepped in to take over two poorly performing local school districts in the area (the districts were recently combined). The city in recent years has also earned a reputation for a staggeringly high homicide rate.

In early June, a local TV news station reported that six slayings in the area occurred within a six-day span.

Joni Alexander, a Pine Bluff City Council member, said Thursday that the area had struggled to tap into some of the hot sectors that are powering the growth of other metro areas, like technology and health care.

She noted the announcement in July of the closure of a small auto-parts plant that had been in operation since the early 1980s.“We’re kind of dealing with a lot of things,” Ms. Alexander said.

— Richard Fausset

The growth along the corridor between San Antonio and Austin is ‘kind of mind-blowing.’

SAN ANTONIO — Not too long ago, the span of Interstate 35 in Texas linking San Antonio and Austin ran through a smattering of smaller cities and lots of wide-open land. Now, it’s a blur of subdivisions, commercial development, and soul-crushing traffic, coalescing into a singular mass of population.

As the U.S. Census Bureau released its decennial counts on Thursday, officials confirmed what has long been plainly visible in that stretch of Central and South Texas: Many new people were moving in.

“It is kind of mind-blowing,” said Travis Mitchell, the mayor of Kyle, a bedroom community outside Austin that is one of those fast-growing cities along the interstate. “With growth comes extreme challenges.”

Census officials specifically pointed out New Braunfels, a suburb north of San Antonio, as an example of cities perched just outside large metropolitan hubs that had experienced some of the most significant growth, with their populations expanding by at least 44 percent. There were two others in Texas: McKinney, outside of Dallas, and Conroe, which had been enveloped by the sprawling Houston metropolitan area.

The growth has, in some ways, symbolized the promise of opportunity, economic and otherwise, that has been part of the state’s sales pitch to draw outsiders, particularly from California and New York.

But it has also come with excruciating growing pains, as constant traffic jams have underscored the strain on infrastructure and surging home prices have boxed out longtime residents.

The problem had intensified to the point that Austin hired a community displacement prevention officer in April, as city officials recognized that Black and Hispanic residents had been among those most punished by the impacts of gentrification.

The populations swelled in the state’s metropolitan hubs, like Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, and the Midland and Odessa area of the Permian Basin of West Texas. Houston gained more than 200,000 new residents, an increase of nearly 10 percent.

Growth has been fueled by a large influx of Hispanic and African Americans. The size of the Latino population in Texas was just 0.4 percentage points behind that of the Anglo population, which is now a minority compared to nonwhite groups.

But census officials said that growth was not universal across Texas, as many other parts of the vast state — in rural areas and smaller cities — saw their populations drained.

The evolution has spurred questions about how the state’s political fortunes could be influenced.

The change in demographics has boosted the optimism of Democrats, who have been courting the new arrivals as potential new voters. They have been buoyed by the party’s recent victories in places like Georgia and Arizona, where demographic shifts have corresponded with new political viability in states where Republicans had long been dominant.

Still, Republicans maintain a tight grip on power at the statewide level. The census figures will translate to new seats in Congress. But that has set the stage for a combative redistricting process this fall.

— Edgar Sandoval and Rick Rojas

Oil turns a rural county in North Dakota into a boomtown.

McKenzie County in western North Dakota grew at the fastest rate of any American county over the past decade, Census Bureau data showed, as the Bakken oil boom attracted thousands of workers and more than doubled the population.

The exceptional rate of growth, especially early in the decade, put stress on the region’s housing, schools, and infrastructure. The mostly rural county has ballooned 131 percent since 2010, rising to 14,700 residents from 6,400 residents.

Nearby Williams County, home to Williston, grew by about 83 percent, to nearly 41,000 residents from about 22,400 in 2010.

The flood of new residents in western North Dakota led to an explosion of development, with new hotels, restaurants, and even a new airport.

North Dakota grew at one of the highest rates of any state over the last decade, and the rise in new residents was not confined to the oil fields. In the eastern part of the state, Cass County, which includes Fargo, grew 23 percent, to nearly 185,000 residents. Grand Forks County grew about 9 percent, to 73,000 residents.

Still, North Dakota remains one of the least populous states in the country, and its growth did not come close to gaining the state a second congressional district.

The influx of newcomers to North Dakota runs counter to decades of trends on the rural Great Plains, where many counties peaked in population before the Dust Bowl and have been losing residents for almost a century.

— Mitch Smith

Diversity rises in Georgia, with whites making up only half the state.

Census data released on Thursday shows that Georgia, a state where white supremacy was for decades enshrined in law and custom, has seen a dramatic boom in ethnic and racial diversity in the last decade, a trend that is already having a profound effect on the politics of both the state and the nation.

Previous census data suggested that whites were on their way to minority status in Georgia sometime in the next few years. But they are not quite there — yet. The new data shows white people currently make up 51.9 percent of the population, down from 59.7 percent in 2010.

African Americans’ share of the overall population increased from 31.5 percent to 33 percent in the last decades, while Hispanics went from 8.8 percent to 10.5 percent of the population. And the number of Asians in the state jumped by more than 200,000 people, a 54.8 percent increase. Asians now make up 5.8 percent of the state population.

Longtime Georgians have felt the change in the flavors of everyday life for years now, taking for granted the fact that good tlayudas can be had in Jonesboro, and serious bibimbap in Columbus.

But most close watchers of Georgia politics also believe these demographic shifts also help explain the new competitiveness the Democratic Party now exhibits in Georgia, where Joe Biden narrowly defeated former President Donald J. Trump in November, and where two Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, scored stunning upset victories over their Republican rivals shortly thereafter.

As Georgia Republicans have sought to rally their base by raising concerns about illegal immigration and noncitizen voting, Democrats have been seeking to build a multicultural coalition that takes advantage of populous and diversifying areas like suburban Gwinnett County, which earlier boomed as whites fled the Atlanta city core.

But the promise of good schools and ample housing stock eventually became a lure to people of all races as overt racial hostility declined in places like Gwinnett. The county, which was more than 90 percent white in 1970, is now 35.5 percent white.

And the county, for decades one of Georgia’s great Republican strongholds, went for Hillary Clinton, in 2016, and Mr. Biden in 2020.

— Richard Fausset

Boston grew swiftly over the decade, as its white population waned.

In past census cycles, the city of Boston was losing population, its young people migrating to the south and west in search of better jobs and cheaper housing.

Not any more. Census data released on Thursday showed that Boston grew 9.3 percent between the 2010 and 2020 counts, a turnaround for the city, and nearly double the growth rate in Massachusetts overall. The city is now home to 675,647 people, according to the census.

As Boston grew, the portion of city residents identifying as white continued to dip, from 47 percent in 2010 to 44.5 percent now. The portion of Black residents is steady, at 24.4 percent in 2010 and 25.2 percent now; the portion of Asians rose from 8.4 percent to 9.7 percent; and the portion of Hispanics rose from 17.5 to 19.8.

The shifting demographics are playing out this summer in city politics, which in past generations was fueled by neighborhood and ethnic rivalries.

Boston remains one of the last cities in the Northeast never to have elected a mayor who was not a white man; but Boston’s City Council is now dominated by women and people of color, and the four front-runners in this fall’s mayoral election are all women of color.

“In some ways, we’re catching up, in terms of political representation,” said Paul Watanabe, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The rise in population comes amid a shortage of affordable housing, which threatens to force working families out of neighborhoods where they have lived for generations. Immigration remains a key driver to population growth in Massachusetts, with swift growth in gateway cities with more affordable housing stock.

— Ellen Barry

Census confirms Hispanic residents are now the biggest ethnic group in California.

California’s Hispanic population became the largest in the state in 2020, outstripping the state’s white population, newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed.

More than 39 percent of Californians identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino in the 2020 survey, compared with the almost 35 percent of the state’s roughly 40 million residents who reported they were white and not Hispanic.

California was also the nation’s second most diverse state behind Hawaii, according to a Census Bureau metric known as a diversity index, which measures how likely it is that two randomly chosen residents will be from different racial or ethnic backgrounds.

The shift in the state’s makeup reinforces California’s place as a preview of the entire nation’s future — increasingly diverse and multiracial, but also less defined by booming population growth.

Earlier this year, the Census Bureau released data confirming what many experts expected: That California for the first time would lose a congressional seat because it didn’t grow as fast in the last decade as other populous states, among them Texas.

On top of that, state estimates released in May showed that over the past year, California’s population actually declined — a small but symbolic 0.46 percent drop.

At the time, demographers attributed that drop mostly to forces shaping the country as a whole — declining birthrates and immigration, plus the deadly toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, the trends have sparked furious debate and have prompted existential anxiety among Californians over housing costs, which have raised the cost of living in many parts of the state beyond the reach of people working in lower-paid jobs, including in food service, logistics, and manufacturing.

As a result, growth in California’s biggest cities has slowed, as residents have headed for less expensive communities further inland.

Los Angeles County, for instance, grew by just 2 percent in the last decade, though it is still the most populous in the country, with more than 10 million residents, the census showed.

That stood in stark contrast with several of the state’s fastest-growing counties, like Placer county near Sacramento, which grew by more than 16 percent.

Many of the counties gaining population are on the edge of wilderness and rural areas, putting them at greater risk of burning in increasingly destructive wildfires.

Experts have said that the higher cost of living in coastal cities also has pushed out many members of deeply rooted communities of color.

Black Californians, in particular, have been displaced from cities like Oakland and Los Angeles, or have moved out of the state entirely, demographers say.

In Alameda County, which encompasses Oakland, the Black population decreased by 7.5 percent over the decade, the census showed. The share of the state’s population of people who identified as Black or African American decreased slightly from 7.2 percent in 2010 to 7.1 percent last year.

— Jill Cowan

Here are the states and cities that grew the most.

As we comb through the details of the new 2020 census data, here are some of the top lines on population.

The states with the largest population increases (meaning the total number of residents added since 2010) were, in descending order:

*Texas

*Florida

*California

*Georgia

*Washington

The states with the fastest population growth (meaning percentage increase since 2010) were, in descending order:

*Utah

*Idaho

*Texas

*North Dakota

*Nevada

The metropolitan areas with the fastest population growth were:

*The Villages, Fla.

*Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas

*St. George, Utah

*Greeley, Colo.

*Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and N.C.

The micropolitan areas — centered on a city or other urban area with fewer than 50,000 residents — with the fastest population growth were:

*Williston, N.D.

*Dickinson, N.D.

*Bozeman, Mont.

*Rexburg, Idaho

*Heber, Utah

The cities with the largest population increases — listed in alphabetical order by state, not by the size of the increase — were:

*Phoenix

*Los Angeles

*Denver

*Jacksonville, Fla.

*New York

*Charlotte, N.C.

*Columbus, Ohio

*Oklahoma City

*Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas

*Seattle

The cities with the fastest population growth, listed in alphabetical order by state, were:

*Buckeye and Goodyear, Ariz.

*Irvine, Calif.

*Meridian, Idaho

*Conroe, Frisco, McKinney and New Braunfels, Texas

*South Jordan, Utah

*Kent, Wash.

At the other end of the spectrum, the metropolitan areas with the fastest population declines were Pine Bluff, Ark., and Danville, Ill. Statewide, only West Virginia, Mississippi, and Illinois lost population.

— Maggie Astor

While Democrats eye urban gains, Republicans will rely on drawing favorable districts.

New data from the Census Bureau depicted a more diverse and metropolitan nation than many analysts anticipated, adding to longstanding Democratic hopes — and Republican fears — that sweeping demographic shifts might ultimately culminate in a new progressive majority.

But while the data seemed to buoy Democratic hopes, it also signaled the beginning of an intense phase of congressional redistricting that is expected to help Republicans.

The non-Hispanic white share of the population fell to 57.8 percent, nearly two points lower than expected, as the number of non-Hispanic white people in the United States dropped for the first time. Vast areas of predominantly white, rural America saw their populations decline.

By nearly every measure, the new data released on Thursday seemed to augur well for Democrats, who had feared that Latino and urban voters would be badly undercounted amid the coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration’s effort to ask about citizenship status.

While it’s still possible that the census undercounted Hispanics, the topline results did not leave any obvious evidence that the count had gone awry. The Hispanic share of the population was in line with projections. New York City, once an epicenter of the pandemic, beat pre-census projections by a significant amount.

The possibility that the declining non-Hispanic, white share of the population might help progressives secure a permanent electoral advantage has loomed over American politics for more than a decade, helping to aggravate conservative fears of immigration and even to motivate a wave of new laws intended to restrict access to voting.

Yet the country’s growing racial diversity has not drastically upended the balance of power in Washington. Despite the seemingly favorable demographic portrait depicted by the 2020 census, the 2020 election nonetheless returned yet another closely divided result: a 50-50 Senate, one of the closest presidential elections in history and a House majority so slender that it might be undone by the data Democrats are celebrating today.

Democratic-leaning voting groups may represent a growing share of the population, but the nation’s political center of gravity continues to shift to the traditionally Republican Sun Belt, where Republicans control the redistricting process in states that gained congressional districts in reapportionment this spring.

The data released today, which contains detailed population counts and demographic data for every neighborhood in the country, will usher in an intense period of new electoral mapmaking, with the potential to determine control of Congress and state legislatures across the country in next year’s midterm election.

Republicans, who have the power to redraw more districts than Democrats, are expected to gain somewhere around five seats from redistricting alone.

— Nate Cohn

A rise in Hispanic and Asian population fuels U.S. growth, census reports.

The United States grew significantly more diverse over the past decade, as the populations of people who identify as Hispanic and Asian surged and the number of people who said they were more than one race increased, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.

Overall population growth slowed dramatically over the past decade. The growth that did occur — an increase of about 23 million people — was made up entirely of people who identified themselves as Hispanic, Asian, Black, and more than one race, according to the data, the first racial and ethnic breakdown from the 2020 census.

The white population in the United States, for the first time on record, declined over the course of the decade. People who identify themselves as white on the census form have been decreasing as a share of the country’s population since the 1960s, when the United States opened up more widely to immigrants outside Europe.

That drop was driven in part by the aging of the white population and a sharp drop in the birthrate.

The single biggest increase was among people who identified as more than one race, a category that first appeared on census forms 20 years ago, and now is the fastest-growing racial and ethnic category. That population more than doubled.

“We are in a weird time demographically,” said Tomás Jiménez, a sociologist at Stanford who writes about immigrants, assimilation, and social mobility. “There’s more choice about our individual identities and how we present them than there has ever been. We can presume far less about who somebody is based on the boxes they check compared to previous periods.”

Thursday’s numbers are this census’s first picture of changes in the American population below the level of states.

The top five largest cities in the country are now New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. Philadelphia is now the sixth-largest city, bumped from fifth by Phoenix, which was the fastest-growing of the top 20 largest cities. Its population rose by 11.2 percent.

The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. And McKenzie County, N.D., was the fastest-growing county over the past decade. Its population more than doubled.

The census showed a continued shift in population away from the old industrial belt — stretching from New York to Illinois — and toward the Sun Belt states like Florida, North Carolina, and Texas, a change that will have an effect on the political map.

The data offered the most detailed picture of race in America since the last decennial census in 2010. The counts are also the basis for redistricting, a process in which state legislatures redraw voting lines based on changes in their states’ populations.

The increase in the numbers of people who identify as Asian and Hispanic was less dramatic than in previous decades, but still much more robust than the increase in the number of Americans who checked the box for white or Black.

The new data show that Hispanics accounted for about half the country’s growth over the past decade, up by about 23 percent. The Asian population grew faster than expected — up by about 36 percent, a rise that made up nearly a fifth of the country’s total.

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans now identify themselves as either Hispanic or Asian. The Black population grew by 6 percent, an increase that represented about a tenth of the country’s growth. Americans who identified as non-Hispanic and more than one race rose the fastest, jumping to 13.5 million from 6 million.

And in what appears to be a big shift in how Hispanics think of their racial identity, one-third of Hispanics reported being more than one race, up from just 6 percent in 2010. That means that Hispanics are now nearly twice is likely to identify as multiracial than as white.

Hispanic origin is counted as an ethnicity, and is a distinct category from race. But Hispanics can also check race boxes.

The nation has been growing more diverse for decades, but recently the pace has accelerated. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for 46 percent of population growth in the 1970s, 36 percent in the 1980s, 20 percent in the 1990s, but just 8 percent of the growth in the first decade of this century, and zero in the 2010s.

“This is a pivotal moment for the country in terms of its diversity,” said William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution. “Part of our population is aging and slow-growing. To counter that, we have people of color who are younger and growing more rapidly. They are helping to propel us further into a century where diversity is going to be the signature of our demography.”

Americans kept migrating to cities, leaving rural areas depopulated.

One of the starkest themes in the data the Census Bureau released on Thursday was the steady growth of urban areas at the expense of vast, rural swaths of the country.

There were exceptions to the pattern — the population of a rural county in North Dakota exploded, for example, during an oil boom — but overwhelmingly, the United States’ growth was fueled by increases in large cities and metropolitan areas.

Population numbers fell in more than half of the nation’s counties, even as the country’s total population increased 7.4 percent over the last decade, reaching 331.4 million.

Almost every county in Illinois shrank, making the state one of only three in the nation to lose population, even as the population rose in its largest city, Chicago.

The huge growth in Texas — which had the largest population increase of any state — came mainly in metropolitan areas like Houston, Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth, while more rural counties in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle lost residents.

New York, which lost one seat in Congress, would have lost two had it not been for robust growth in New York City, which offset losses in other parts of the state. The city now accounts for nearly 44 percent of the state’s population.

Nationwide, 86 percent of Americans lived in metropolitan areas in 2020, and 8 percent lived in what census officials call “micropolitan” areas — cities or other population centers with fewer than 50,000 but more than 10,000 people. That leaves only 6 percent of Americans living in the rural parts of the country.

— Maggie Astor

A fight over political redistricting looms, with control of Congress potentially hanging in the balance.

The Census Bureau released long-awaited district-level results on Thursday, setting off what is expected to be the most bruising, litigious, and consequential redistricting battle in a generation, with control of Congress hanging in the balance and gerrymandering threatening to lock in quasi-permanent majorities in state legislatures across the country.

With Democrats clinging to a slim margin in the House of Representatives, control of the chamber in 2022 could be decided through congressional redistricting alone: Republican-leaning states like Texas and Florida are adding new seats through reapportionment, and G.O.P.-dominated state legislatures will steer much more of the redistricting process, allowing them to draw more maps than Democrats.

In a matter of days — if history is any guide — as soon as state officials can crunch census data files into their more modern formats, an intense process of mapmaking, political contention, legal wrangling, well-financed opinion-shaping, and ornery public feedback will unfold in statehouses, courthouses, on the air and even on the streets in regions of special contention.

The redistricting fight arrives amid one of the most protracted assaults on voting access since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, an effort that has made the right to vote among the most divisive issues in American politics. And redistricting will take place this fall without critical guardrails that the Voting Rights Act had erected: a process known as preclearance that ensured oversight of states with a history of discrimination. The Supreme Court effectively neutered that provision in a 2013 ruling, meaning that it could take lawsuits — and years — to force the redrawing of districts that dilute the voting power of minority communities.

The looming nationwide struggle over congressional and state legislative maps will also occur on an extraordinarily accelerated timeline. The necessary census data is arriving months later than normal because of pandemic-related delays, leaving state legislatures, independent commissions, and others responsible for drawing new maps to work extremely quickly to establish new districts before primary contests begin next year.

The compressed schedule has already led to some pre-emptive lawsuits, mostly filed by Democrats, even before any maps were drawn. The two parties and allied outside groups have set aside tens of millions of dollars to pay for legal challenges.

“For both parties, redistricting is like an amped-up war this cycle,” said Michael Li, a senior counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Whatever it takes, people will do.”

— Nick Corasaniti

Some fear the pandemic and political turmoil may have affected the count.

Perhaps no census has been as fraught as the one that led to the data released on Thursday, a count pummeled by the pandemic and hobbled by a White House that sought to use it as a tool to permanently shift the balance of national political power.

Theoretically, those crises could have opened big holes in the data the Census Bureau gathered last year, as some people shied from being counted and others refused to tell the government everything it wanted to know. How big those holes are, and how they were plugged, won’t be known until the bureau publishes the results of its own quality check later this year.

But one longtime expert preaches caution. “Early returns on every census cause people to jump to conclusions that may not be supported on further research,” Steve Jost, a census consultant, and former bureau official, said in an interview.

In this case, Mr. Jost said, the numbers could even show that a census many expected to be wildly inaccurate was actually pretty close to the mark.

There was plenty to worry about. The national count unfolded amid a contentious effort by the Trump administration to exclude from the census count millions of people living in the county without authorization, despite a constitutional mandate to count everyone.

Not until July 2020 did it reveal why: President Donald J. Trump wanted to exclude them from population totals used to divvy up seats in the House of Representatives, creating an older, whiter, and presumably more Republican base for reapportionment.

That effort failed, but one early indicator suggests the anti-immigrant crusade may have scared some ethnic groups: The share of households that declined to answer at least one of the nine questions on the 2020 census form was exponentially higher than in the last census in 2010. And questions about race and ethnicity were the ones most likely to be skipped.

On the other hand, the early results show a much larger move to the cities than many expected, and a substantial jump in the Hispanic population — all suggesting that maybe ethnic and racial groups were not as deterred as was thought likely.

Experts also fretted after the coronavirus shut down the nation in April 2020, just as the nationwide tally was getting underway. The crucial final phase of the census, in which door-knockers tracked down the millions who had not voluntarily filled out a form, was delayed to autumn — peak hurricane season, when storms battered much of the South. Frightened residents refused to open doors to census-takers; census-takers proved harder to recruit and quit more often for fear of getting sick. In a final, frantic push, the bureau literally airlifted its best door-knockers into its hardest-to-count regions, a logistical move reminiscent of an army campaign.

That led many experts to worry that the bureau would miss counting so many households that it would have to fill in data on huge swaths of some areas by making statistical educated guesses about who lived there. But in fact, those guesses, called count imputations, are actually lower than in 2010, because the bureau sifted through federal records to identify who was in those missed households.

In theory, that could lead to a more accurate census than anyone expected — if the records were accurate. That won’t be clear until the bureau issues its report card. In the meantime, one expert suggests that people simply be thankful that, in a year of historic social and political upheaval, a decent count happened at all.

“The mere fact that we’re getting the data and beginning to get back on track is a big accomplishment,” said Margo J. Anderson, a historian and census expert at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

— Michael Wines

An earlier census report showed U.S. population growth slowed dramatically.

Thursday’s census report follows an earlier data release showing that the United States population grew at the second-slowest rate since the government started counting in 1790, a remarkable slackening that was driven by a slowdown in immigration and a declining birthrate.

The bureau in April also reported changes to the nation’s political map: The long-running trend of the South and the West gaining population — and the congressional representation that comes with it — at the expense of the Northeast and the Midwest continued, with Texas gaining two seats and Florida one, and New York and Ohio each losing one. California, long a leader in population growth, lost a seat for the first time in history.

The population shift to the Sun Belt has been happening for years, but its political meaning is changing. In decades past, Sun Belt gains often translated to automatic pluses for Republicans in the Electoral College. Now the calculus is more complicated.

While Donald J. Trump won the four fastest-growing states — Utah, Idaho, Texas, and North Dakota — President Biden won four of the next five on the list: Nevada, Colorado, Washington, and Arizona.

Regardless of which party ultimately benefits, the findings appear to solidify a gathering pattern in American life: The South and the West are increasingly the centers of population and power, surging ahead of the Northeast and the Midwest, whose numbers have been stagnating since a high in the first part of the 20th century.

Booming economies in states like Texas, Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina have drawn Americans away from struggling small communities in high-cost, cold-weather states. In New York, 48 of 62 counties are estimated to be losing population. In Illinois, a state that also lost a congressional seat, 93 of 102 counties are believed to be shrinking. In 1970, the West and the South combined for just under half the U.S. population — now they make up 62 percent.

That is shifting political power. In all, six states gained congressional seats: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas, which gained two. Seven lost a seat: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Some states were incredibly close: New York was just 89 people short of keeping its seat, an expert at the Census Bureau said. And there were other surprises: Arizona, which demographers expected to gain a seat, did not. And though New York lost a seat, its population grew by more than 4 percent despite earlier census estimates that predicted the state would stay mostly flat.

The new decennial census counted 331,449,281 Americans as of April 1, 2020, said Dr. Ron Jarmin, the acting director of the Census Bureau. The total was up by 7.4 percent over the previous decade, slightly more than in the 1930s, when the population grew by just 7.3 percent. In that period, the birthrate rose once the economy started to climb out of the Great Depression. But this time it has continued to decline, after dropping in the wake of the Great Recession in 2008.

The lower birthrate, combined with the decline in inflows of immigrants and shifting age demographics — there are now more Americans 80 and older than 2 or younger — means the United States may be entering an era of substantially lower population growth, demographers said. This would put the United States in line with the countries of Europe and East Asia that face serious long-term challenges with rapidly aging populations.

— Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff

The U.S. birthrate has dropped again. The pandemic may be accelerating the decline.

The birthrate declined for the sixth straight year in 2020, the federal government reported on Wednesday, early evidence that the coronavirus pandemic accelerated a trend among American women of delaying pregnancy.

Early in the pandemic, there was speculation that the major changes in the life of American families could lead to a recovery in the birthrate, as couples hunkered down together. In fact, they appeared to have had the opposite effect: Births were down most sharply at the end of the year, when babies conceived at the start of the pandemic would have been born.

Births declined by about 8 percent in December compared with the same month the year before, a monthly breakdown of government data showed. December had the largest decline of any month. Over the entire year, births declined by 4 percent, the data showed. There were 3,605,201 births in the United States last year, the lowest number since 1979. The birthrate — measured as the number of babies per thousand women ages 15 to 44 — has fallen by about 19 percent since its recent peak in 2007.

The declining birthrate is just one piece of America’s shifting demographic picture. Combined with a substantial leveling-off of immigration, and rising deaths, the country’s population over the past decade expanded at the second-slowest rate since the government started counting in the 18th century. The pandemic, which pushed the death rate higher and the birthrate even lower, appears to have deepened that trend.

Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire, has calculated that together with the rise in deaths — up by about 18 percent from 2019 — the drop in births is contributing to the aging of the American population: A total of 25 states had more deaths than births last year, Dr. Johnson said, up from five at the end of 2019.

“The birthrate is the lowest it’s ever been,” he said. “At some point, the question is going to be: The women who delayed having babies, are they ever going to have them? If they don’t, that’s a permanent notch in the American births structure.”

— Sabrina Tavernise

Rising diversity might not help Democrats as much as they hope.

The Census Bureau released two important sets of data in April that had big implications for American politics — and that challenged some prevailing assumptions for both Democrats and Republicans.

The first set of data laid out long-term demographic trends widely thought to favor Democrats: Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and multiracial voters grew as a share of the electorate over the last two presidential races, and white voters — who historically tend to back the G.O.P. — fell to 71 percent in 2020 from 73 percent in 2016.

The other data set told a second story. Population growth continues to accelerate in the South and the West, so much so that some Republican-leaning states in those regions are gaining more Electoral College votes. The states won by President Biden will be worth 303 electoral votes, down from 306 electoral votes in 2020. The Democratic disadvantage in the Electoral College just got worse again.

These demographic and population shifts are powerfully clarifying about electoral politics in America: The increasing racial diversity among voters isn’t doing quite as much to help Democrats as liberals hope, or to hurt Republicans as much as conservatives fear.

The expanding Democratic disadvantage in the Electoral College underscores how the growing diversity of the nation may not aid Democrats enough to win in places they most need help. Just as often, population growth is concentrated in red states — like Texas and Florida — where the Democrats don’t win nonwhite voters by the overwhelming margins necessary to overcome the state’s Republican advantage.

As for the Republicans, the widely held assumption that the party will struggle as white voters decline as a percentage of the electorate may be more myth than reality. The country’s growing racial diversity has not drastically upended the party’s chances. Instead, Republicans face a challenge they often take for granted: white voters.

-Nate Cohn

Source: Nytimes.com

Date Posted: Thursday, August 12th, 2021 , Total Page Views: 489

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