Census Bureau releases long-awaited data from 2020 survey

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:02 PM ET, Thu August 12, 2021
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12:41 p.m. ET, August 12, 2021

Census Bureau says data are "high quality" and "fit to use for redistricting" despite pandemic's challenges 

Despite challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Ron Jarmin, acting director of the Census Bureau, says in a July 28 blog post that the local-level results set to be released today "are high quality and are fit to use for redistricting."

"Every way we’ve analyzed the 2020 Census — through our extensive reviews during data processing, by comparing the numbers to population benchmarks, and looking at the operations — the census data are high quality and are fit to use for redistricting. In fact, the quality of the 2020 Census data is quite remarkable amid all the challenges we faced last year," Jarmin writes.

The acting director noted the pandemic "significantly delayed our schedule for collecting and processing the data for the 2020 Census" and he described how the pandemic's impact may be reflected in the data.

"Our results also will likely show some effects from the current pandemic. For example, some people relocated, and based on the 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations, they may have been counted in a different place than they would have lived otherwise," he writes.

According to the Census Bureau, the data set to be released today will "include the first demographic and housing data from the 2020 Census that allow us to see demographic and population changes around the nation."

The data will be made up of:

  • Housing unit counts
  • Occupancy status for housing units (occupied or vacant)
  • Population totals
  • Population totals by race
  • Population totals by race and Hispanic/Latino origin
  • Voting-age population (age 18 and older) totals by race and Hispanic/Latino origin
  • Population totals in group quarters by major group quarters type

Some more context: Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years, using the latest Census data — along with data points ranging from education levels, wealth and historic voting patterns — to draw congressional seats. In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state's governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps.

CNN's Dan Merica contributed reporting to this post.

12:50 p.m. ET, August 12, 2021

You likely will hear the word "redistricting" a lot today. Here's what it means.

From CNN's Dan Merica

The Census Bureau is set to release data today from the 2020 Census on "race, Hispanic origin, and the voting-age population" that states use "to redraw the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts," according to their website. This redrawing of districts is known as "redistricting."

Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years, using the latest Census data — along with data points ranging from education levels, wealth and historic voting patterns — to draw congressional seats. Republicans, because of their control of a majority of state legislatures, have been far more successful in drawing maps that favor their party.

Democrats have responded with a two-pronged approach with vastly different levels of success. First, operatives and lawyers have filed a number of successful lawsuits alleging that the other party is illegally engaging in gerrymandering, particularly along racial lines. Gerrymandering is when politicians manipulate voting district boundaries to favor one party over another. Secondly, Democrats have looked to turn the redistricting process into a political issue, committing more millions to try to win back state legislatures ahead of the redistricting process. Those efforts have been far less successful.

In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state's governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states, including Arizona, Colorado and Michigan, rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps.

For those tasked with redistricting, especially in states with some political control, the pressure to get these calculations right is immense, given that the process could determine control of the House of Representatives for years to come.

Adding pressure to these calculations are dramatic demographic shifts across the country, with states in the upper Midwest and northeast likely to lose seats in Congress, while states like Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina are set to add seats because of growth largely fueled by minority voters.

Read more about the process here.

1:08 p.m. ET, August 12, 2021

The Census Bureau released data in April that showed which states would gain seats. Here are key results. 

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

The US Census Bureau announced in April that the US population has topped 331 million people, marking the country's second slowest population growth rate in history. 

The results of the Census determine which states gain and lose seats in the House of Representatives — and, therefore, which states gain or lose Electoral College votes, which are allocated based on the number of congressional representatives each state has.

Here are some key takeaways about the data released by the US Census Bureau:

  • The US population is growing, but more slowly. As of April 1, 2021, there are 331,449,281 people living in the US. That's an increase of 7.4% since 2010, the second slowest growth rate in history, just barely behind the 1940 Census after the Great Depression. 
  • The South is booming. Most of the country continues to grow, but the South is growing the fastest — more than 10% since 2010, followed by the Mountain West, the Northeast and the Midwest.
  • Three states saw negative growth. West Virginia, Illinois and Mississippi all lost population. So did Puerto Rico, which is not a state but has a population of more than 3.2 million Americans.
  • The balance of power will change in Congress in 2022. Seven of the 435 seats in Congress will be reallocated in 2021. Texas gains two seats, while Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon each gain one. Meanwhile, California, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Illinois each lose a seat.
  • The balance of power in the Electoral College will change in 2024. Each state that gains or loses a congressional seat also gains or loses an Electoral College vote. Five of the seven new Electoral College votes will go to states won by former President Trump in 2020. However, four of the states gaining seats are likely to be competitive in the next presidential election.
  • The country is getting more crowded, but Congress is staying the same. In 1960, the first Census for which there were 50 states, there were about 410,481 people in the US per congressperson. That number will have doubled in the decades to come.
  • This data is late and likely affected by Covid. The pandemic disrupted the Census just like it disrupted everything else. Most Americans filled out Census forms online, but the Census workers tasked with going door to door to fill in the gaps had to delay their work because of the pandemic.
  • What happens next? More data, then redrawing congressional lines. This is only the first data drop from the Census. More detailed data, including demographics, will be released by Sept. 30. It's that more detailed data that state legislatures or independent commissions will use to redraw congressional lines within states.

Read more about the Census data and what it means for the government here.

CNN's Alyssa Kraus contributed to this post.

12:44 p.m. ET, August 12, 2021

2020 Census population growth data, in 3 charts

From CNN's Dan Merica and Liz Stark

The Census Bureau is set to release new data today that will be used to draw congressional and state legislative district lines.

Back in April, the bureau released population results that showed the total population of the United States has topped 331 million people, marking the country's second slowest population growth rate in US history. Amid that, Texas will gain two seats in the redistricting process, the results found.

Additionally, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one seat in Congress.

California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will all lose congressional seats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Here's a look at three charts that depict the results of that data release:

11:58 a.m. ET, August 12, 2021

This is the data the Census is expected to release today — and why it matters

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

The US Census Bureau in April announced the winners and losers of the decennial US population count, which you've probably already heard about for the obstacles that got in the way of the 2020 edition. 

The results will determine which states gain and lose seats in the House of Representatives — and, as a result, which states gain or lose Electoral College votes, which are allocated based on the number of congressional representatives each state has.

This was only the first data drop from the Census. More detailed data, including demographics, will be released today. It's that more detailed data that state legislatures or independent commissions will use to redraw congressional lines within states.

This is a highly political task that some states have tried to depoliticize by placing with nonpartisan commissions.

Others, however, are nakedly partisan. While the Supreme Court has outlawed the drawing of congressional lines around racial data, they have given the green light to draw lines for political reasons. That means Republicans in Texas, for instance, will cram as many Democrats as possible into as few districts as possible, both at the state and federal level.

Democrats will do the same thing in states they control. But Republicans, objectively, have been more successful at gerrymandering.

The political drawing of congressional districts is a key reason they retained control of the House in 2012. It's a large reason they retained control of many state legislatures in 2020.

Multiple states have created nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions to draw congressional lines and they have been shown to yield more competitive congressional races. The Brennan Center for Justice has a roundup of each state's system.

Other states, like Florida, have legislature-approved districts, but there are curbs on gerrymandering written into state law.

Congress could vote to end the practice of gerrymandering. Democrats in the House have endorsed a plan to create independent commissions in every state. But it does not currently have the supermajority needed to cut off debate in the Senate.