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The 2020 Census: Our Growing Nation

April 26, 2021
Written by: Dr. Ron Jarmin, Acting Director

Today the U.S. Census Bureau is releasing results from the 2020 Census, marking the 24th time the nation’s population has been counted since the first census in 1790, when there were just 3.9 million people living in the United States.

The first census helped build the foundation of our democracy, and the census continues to be a cornerstone for our growing nation.

According to the 2020 Census, there were 331,449,281 people living in the United States as of April 1, 2020, which represents a growth of 7.4% since 2010. In the last 100 years, our nation has tripled in size.

Constitutional Purpose

Beyond marking our nation’s growth each decade, the census serves a constitutional purpose by determining each state’s representation in Congress. Every 10 years, a process called congressional apportionment occurs, which distributes the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states in a way that is proportional to each state’s population from the census.

Since 1941, the law has specified that the method of equal proportions will be used to assign House seats to the states.

Based on the 2020 Census, 6 states will gain seats, 7 will lose seats, and the remainder will have no change.

After the first apportionment occurred based on the 1790 Census, each member of the House represented roughly 34,000 people. Now, the average population size of each House district based on the 2020 Census will be 761,169 people, which is an increase of 50,402 people per representative when compared with the average of 710,767 people per representative based on the 2010 Census.

A National Accomplishment

Even amid a global pandemic, our nation completed the 2020 Census count. A census is a massive operation that takes years to plan and a village to see it come to fruition.

This historic event is the culmination of:

  • Each person who completed the 2020 Census form.
  • The outreach efforts of almost 400,000 national and community partners who spread the word in their communities about the value of participating in the census.
  • Millions of hours of dedicated staff time focused on collecting responses from every corner of our nation and processing those responses to turn them into today’s results.

Through all of this, we remained flexible, practical and persistent so we could fully conduct the 2020 Census count. We are proud to see how millions of people completed the census online, through the mail, or over the phone. Conducting a census is difficult even without a global pandemic. We adjusted our schedule and operations and purchased huge quantities of personal protective equipment to keep the public and our hundreds of thousands of our enumerators safe during our field operations. For everyone’s collective efforts, I am so thankful.

Commitment to Quality and Transparency

We know how important it is for our nation to make informed decisions about the people who live here. That’s why, from collecting responses to processing the data, we have remained committed to an accurate count and to producing useful and important statistics about our nation’s population. We have also released a series of blogs to provide a new level of transparency about our processing to the public.

To keep with our long-established commitment to transparency about how we produce our statistics, we are also releasing detailed operational metrics. These metrics provide more specifics on how we completed the count.

The metrics, along with the many assessments we do, inform us about the quality of the 2020 Census. This is the first time in the Census Bureau’s history that we have released data quality metrics on the same day as the first census results.

And while no census is perfect, I am confident in our 2020 Census results. Otherwise, we would not yet be releasing them.

Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, the completeness and accuracy of these first 2020 Census results are comparable with recent censuses. We had numerous quality checks built into collecting the data, and we have conducted one of the most comprehensive reviews in recent census history during data processing. The Census Bureau is committed to sharing what we know when we know it, to help the nation understand the quality of the 2020 Census results.

Looking Ahead

The Census Bureau looks forward to releasing additional 2020 Census data, including more quality metrics in May and the redistricting data later this year, which will include new insights on our changing communities. We look forward to sharing that data with the public.

Results from the 2020 Census will be used for the next 10 years to shape the future of our country. They will help local leaders make decisions such as where to build roads and hospitals and how to help our nation recover from the pandemic. The results will also help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds will be distributed each year nationwide.

I am very proud and humbled to represent the thousands of Census Bureau staff in this endeavor. They have worked tirelessly for years to make today’s historic moment possible, and I assure you this would not have been possible without them. And, I am thrilled to be here at the Census Bureau as we give the country the results of this collective achievement.

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