3 Takeaways From 2020 Census Apportionment Data

The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released its first set of apportionment population and resident population counts for the nation and each state.

April 27, 2021, 12:15 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


January 6, 2021

Thomas Hengge / Shutterstock

The first big data release of a Census process troubled by politics and a pandemic went public this week. The 2020 Census apportionment results seem almost tailor-made to add fuel to the fires of polarization and culture war , as the nation's growth slows to a historic crawl and population shifts to Republican-led states in the South and West—and away from long-time growth machines like California and New York.

A ton of news and analysis has been generated in response to the announcement, so before providing an link dump, here's a look at a few of the dominant narratives that has emerged in response to the data release.

U.S. Growth Slows

The growth rate of the population in the United States was slower between 2010 and 2020 than it has been since the 1930s. Despite total U.S. population growth outpacing some previous estimates, the reality in 2020 was far from the "population bomb" theory of environmental and social concern popular at the end of the 20th century. Still, population is primed to decline in the coming decades, and unless there's a post-pandemic baby boom, the country could be entering a period of population decline much sooner than anyone could have imagined even a few short years ago.

Census Reflects the Nation's Political Fragmentation

The reapportionment data has an obvious effect for the political realities of the United States, and the list of states that won seats (Texas, Florida, and North Carolina lead the list with two, one, and one new seats, respectively) versus the states that lost seats (California and New York lost one seat, along with Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan) breaks down almost too cleanly along the political fault lines that have divided the country in recent years. This zero-sum game of winners and losers is also reflected in the quick work some urbanists made of weaponizing the new Census numbers as evidence for the cause of developing more housing. Still, while some see the shifting Census data as evidence of a victory for the Republican party, others see an opportunity for liberals to make the case for allowing new levels of immigration. Also, there is already evidence that the Republican-supporting track record of the states that gained new House representatives are shifting toward Democratic candidates as their populations grow.

Crisis of Confidence

The state of New York, home to the nation's most populous and culturally magnetic city, lost the final seat in the House of Representatives by a difference of 89 people—despite growing its population by 4 percent. The New York Times tied the loss of the seat to political dysfunction and an undercounted Census process, but others wondered what would have happened if there had been 89 fewer "Why I'm leaving New York" essays published on the Internet. The state of New York's number of House representatives has been declining since the 1940s, at least. California had never lost a seat in the House until now. Like with New York City, many on social media are blaming California's loss, also achieved despite a growth in population, on out-migration caused by the high cost of housing in the state. The New York Times, however, blamed the state's slowing growth on declining birthrates and changing federal immigration policies.

With those three narratives in place, here's a list of initial reading on the apportionment and population data release this week. The links below include the embedded links above as well as more local, state, and national coverage of the new Census data. Hat tip to All Things Census for such consistent sharing of Census stories.


James Brasuell

James Brasuell is a writer and editor, producing web, print, and video content on the subjects of planning, urbanism, and mobility. James has managed all editorial content and direction for Planetizen since 2014 and was promoted to editorial director in 2021.

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

San Francisco Houses

‘Mega-Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters

As institutional investors buy up a larger share of single-family homes, the families renting them are increasingly vulnerable to rent increases and eviction.

May 15, 2022 - The Hill

Walkable DC

Mixed Use Could Lower Neighborhood Crime Rates

New research shows areas with a heavy concentration of commercial offices experience 40 percent higher crime rates than neighborhoods that mix residential and commercial uses.

58 minutes ago - Arch Daily

Electric bike charging logo on asphalt

Denver E-Bike Rebate Program Proves Wildly Popular

The city is temporarily pausing applications after the program ran out of funds less than a month after the city announced it.

1 hour ago - CBS Denver

Fire engine parked by burned area during Woolsey Fire

One-Fifth of California AirBnb Rentals in Fire Risk Areas

An analysis of Airbnb properties across the state shows that despite the high fire risk in many parts of the state, the company and hosts frequently don’t provide adequate warning and evacuation instructions to guests.

2 hours ago - Los Angeles Times

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.