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.

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