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2020 Census Update: Can We Find 89 People?

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the first population counts from the 2020 Census. The release was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic and the questionable conduct of the Trump administration. The legal action that ensued last fall stopped, re-started, and stopped the nationwide counting process earlier than anticipated.

The resident population of the United States was 331,449,281 as of Census Day; April 1, 2020. By comparison, the 2010 Census included a population of approximately 309,000,000 residents. The Census was designed to count residents as of Census Day. U.S. residents who died before April 1, 2020 should not have been counted and people who died on or after April 1 should have been counted. The 2020 number reflects the slowest growth rate in the U.S. since the Great Depression of 1940.

Even though New York’s population increased slightly with the recent Census, 20,201,249 in 2020 from 19,378,102 in 2010, it will likely lose one congressional seat as a result of the recent count. Keep in mind that New York lost two seats after the 2010 Census and some anticipated that New York would lose two seats, rather than one, based on the 2020 Census. “If New York had had 89 more people, they would have received one more seat,” said Kristin Koslap, Senior Technical Expert in the Census Bureau’s Population Division.

Rather than have a delegation of 27 in the U.S. House of Representatives, New York will have 26 legislators if it fails to succeed in challenging the census count. The states that lost congressional seats might find justification to sue the Biden administration. States with large populations are allocated more seats than states with small populations. It is possible that the courts might have a say in how the balance of power in the House of Representatives is apportioned.

The process of apportionment - dividing the 435 congressional districts that comprise the House of Representatives, based on the Census - has been around since the original 1790 Census. The 1870 Census questionnaire was redesigned to reflect the end of slavery by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and to incorporate Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which repealed the “Three-Fifths Compromise”. Today, the Constitution specifically requires “. . . counting the whole number of persons in each state . . .” What began with a count of people in fractional shares in 16 districts has evolved to include a count of residents in 50 states and five U.S. territories; Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As the second set of 2020 Census results is published in the coming months, all eyes will shift to the information about race, ethnicity, age and sex, as well as detailed population numbers for counties, cities, towns, and other smaller areas. The more detailed demographic information is needed for the redrawing of legislative districts based on the proportional share of population increases and decreases within the U.S. and each state. The data is also used to create legislative priorities and distribute $1.5 trillion a year in federal dollars for healthcare, education, public safety, and other programs. Local officials are hopeful Westchester County’s overall Census 2020 Response Rate of 69.2%, which exceeded 2010 (67.9%) and 2000 (68%) overall Response Rates, will result in an increase in federal funding for much needed programs.


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