News Brief: Census 2020 Population Data

Most of the media commentary that followed last week's release of Census 2020 data focused on trends in the racial demographics of the country and the country's growing rural-urban divide.

3 minute read

August 18, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


U.S. Census Bureau

rblfmr / Shutterstock

On August 12, the U.S. Census updated population counts released in April 2021 that will lay the groundwork of the redistricting process that redraws the political maps of the United States every ten years.

As noted in numerous previous articles on Planetizen, the Census 2020 process was troubled from the outset by seemingly deliberate mismanagement by the Trump administration, legal controversies that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and the public health concerns swirling around Covid-19. Now, on the precipice of a redistricting process that is sure to spark more legal and political controversies, the new Census data has produced a number of narratives likely to add fuel to the fire of the culture wars around the United States.

The dominant narratives from the August data drop include shrinking white and rural populations (a Planetizen blog post by Michael Lewyn detailed the urban growth documented in the Census data) and minorities as the driver of population growth in the country. These themes played out both in national stories and local stories, as shown in most of the links below. Local news also covered total population figures, with one city, Detroit, threatening to challenge the findings of the troubled census process.

To make some narratives of your, own the IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) is offering six 2020 redistricting data tables at any geographic level from the whole nation, down to the Census block level. 2020 NHGIS shapefiles are also coming soon. (NHGIS provides free online access to summary statistics and GIS files for U.S. censuses and other nationwide surveys.)

Urban Versus Rural

Racial Demographic Shift

Local News

As always, when it comes to Census news, a hat tip is owed to the All Things Census Twitter feed managed by D'Vera Cohn, senior writer and editor at the Pew Research Center. 


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. After a first career as a class five white water river guide in Trinity County in Northern California, James started his career in Los Angeles as a volunteer at a risk reduction center in Skid Row.

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

March 1 - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

March 1 - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

March 1 - University of Rhode Island

Write for Planetizen

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.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.