This paper considers the 2020 Census national and state-level resident population counts in historical and evaluative contexts. By comparing the first results of the 2020 Census against benchmark data sources, we examine how the nation has changed at the highest levels and set the stage for the comprehensive analyses still to come.
Based on the bureau’s estimates, the latest tally is likely to show that the growth in the number of people living in the U.S. has slowed to the lowest rate the country has seen since the 1940 census was conducted in the wake of the Great Depression. Disruptions from COVID-19 during last year’s counting, however, have made shifts in each state’s population particularly hard to predict.
Last year’s tally was the country’s 24th census — a once-a-decade tradition required by the Constitution since 1790 — and it is the ninth count for which the U.S. government has attempted to include every person living in the country in the numbers used for reapportioning seats in Congress. Before the 1940 census, the phrase “excluding Indians not taxed” in the Constitution excluded some American Indians from the apportionment counts.
So far in 2020 Census processing, 27 of the 33 anomalies we’ve found are of this type. Let me give a couple of examples.
Miscalculating age for missing birthdays. We found that our system was miscalculating ages for people who included their year of birth but left their birthday and month blank. We fixed this with a simple code correction. Making sure ages calculate correctly helps us with other data processing steps for matching and removing duplicate responses.
Incorrectly sorting out self-responses from group quarters residents. The 2020 Census allowed people to respond online or by phone without using the pre-assigned Census ID that links their response to their address. As a result, some people who live in group quarters facilities, such as nursing homes, were able to respond on their own even though they were also counted through the separate Group Quarters Enumeration operation. This also makes their address show up as a duplicate — as both a group quarters facility and a housing unit. Our business rules sort out these duplicate responses and addresses by accepting the response coming from the group quarters operation and removing the response and address appearing as a housing unit. We found an error in how this rule was being carried out. The code was correctly removing the duplicate address but wasn’t removing the duplicate response. We fixed this with another code correction, which enables us to avoid overcounting these residents.
Author(s): MICHAEL THIEME, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR DECENNIAL CENSUS PROGRAMS, SYSTEMS AND CONTRACTS