Big counties get bigger as large metro areas lead population growth in 2020 census
Across the country, the most densely populated areas grew while smaller places shrank as U.S. population growth slowed to its most glacial pace since the Great Depression, new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau show.
The census results released Thursday are a snapshot of the population as of April 1, 2020.
They show the country over the last decade grew at its slowest pace since the 1930’s and that less than half of the nation’s 3,143 counties or equivalents increased in population between 2010 and 2020. Most of the population growth in the U.S. happened in metropolitan areas, about 80% of which added people during the decade.
States will use the data to draw new boundaries for state legislative and congressional districts in a process known as redistricting.
The data are key to drawing those new maps, but the U.S. Census Bureau is months behind on its release schedule because of the pandemic.
Across the country, states will begin crunching the numbers released on Thursday to jumpstart their line-drawing processes even as the bureau prepares more user-friendly data. Maps that emerge from redistricting will set the course for representation in statehouse and in Congress for the next decade.
Large counties, metro areas growing
Larger counties, big cities and metropolitan areas were the big population winners in the 2020 census. The top 10 largest cities in the country all have more than 1 million people for the first time.
Phoenix, for example, was the fastest-growing major city over the last decade, jumping over Philadelphia to become the fifth-largest city in the country. It added more than 160,000 people between 2010 and 2020, an increase of 11.2% to more than 1.6 million, according to the Arizona Republic.
Austin just missed the 1-million mark, growing to about 961,000 people between 2010 and 2020. The Texas capital has recorded double-digit percentage growth each decade since it began being tracked in 1840, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The growth in Austin over the last decade came with another addition: its first professional sports franchise, a Major League Soccer club.
The largest counties led the way on growth for the U.S. Population increased by 9.1% in those with 100,000 or more people and by 4.1% in those with 50,000 to 99,999 people. Population dropped on average in counties with fewer than 49,999 people, though, according to the Census Bureau.
Cincinnati reversed a 70-year run of population loss in the 2020 census, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Its population increased by 4.2% to more than 309,000 people, the data show.
In Ohio, Columbus and its surrounding suburbs have been siphoning population from other parts of the state for years. Delaware and Union counties, part of the metropolitan area ringing Columbus, were among the fastest-growing counties in the state again in the 2020 Census, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Columbus was among a group of cities that gained 100,000 or more people from 2010 to 2020.
It wasn’t all good news for cities, though. Detroit continued to leak population over the last decade, experiencing a 10.5% decline in residents to about 639,000 people. It is the seventh consecutive decade that Michigan’s largest city has lost population, according to the Detroit Free Press.
While Michigan grew slightly over the decade, it still was among the seven states to lose a Congressional seat in the most recent apportionment. California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia also lost a seat in Congress.
Texas gained two seats in the new census, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon all will add one.
Georgia did not add a seat in apportionment, but it was among a group of five states and Washington, D.C., in the Census Bureau's southern district to grow by 10% or more. The Augusta Chronicle reported the Peach State added more than 1 million people over the decade, bringing its total population to about 10.7 million.
Mississippi, Illinois and West Virginia were the only states to lose population in the 2020 census.
Iowa continued its century-long trend of growing slower than the national average, according to the Des Moines Register. While the newspaper reported sluggish growth in Des Moines, the suburbs around the city are "booming."
The new census data also paints the most recent picture of the racial and ethnic diversity of the country. Indiana inched up the rankings in the census diversity index, from No. 37 in 2010 to No. 34 this year, according to the Indianapolis Star.