What to consider in the 2020 Census data

Nonresponse rates, new political maps and churning racial and ethnic identity

Decennial Census data

Every ten years since 1790, the government has collected data as required by the Constitution. The very first one consisted of only six questions of 3.9 million people and was used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives.

In 2020, the pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes seriously impacted the ability to collect responses. Timelines were extended. The process was impacted.

Nonresponse rates impact ACS one-year estimates

For the American Community Survey (the “long-form” census), collection of responses via mail is typically followed up with in-person visits. Because the Census Bureau postponed their non-response follow up this past year until it was deemed safer for census workers to visit individuals where they lived, it only collected two-thirds of the responses it usually collects in a survey year.

Census Bureau staff found high nonresponse to the ACS from people with lower income, lower educational attainment, and who were less likely to own their home. This “nonresponse bias” is normal in statistics but the standard nonresponse adjustments could not fully address the differences and still have a high-quality dataset.

As a result, standard one-year estimates will not be released as they do not meet Census standards that are designed to ensure the utility, objectivity and integrity of the statistical information. This means that one-year estimates for 2020 at the county, state, and national levels may not be available in Metopio. However, the upcoming five-year estimates are still scheduled to be released as normal in December and will provide detailed data on all topics in every place in the country.

Note: Metopio will update Census tracts to the 2020 formats when the 2020 Census data is fully released.

Redistricting data releases

The Census Bureau delayed release of the redistricting data set that, in a normal cycle, is typically released April 1. The data arrived on August 12, 2021 in a court-mandated legacy format that is no longer widely used. The standard release, including access via the Census Bureau’s API, will be available before September 30, 2021, and Metopio will add this data as soon as it is available.

The data is used to redraw political districts across the country reflecting shifts in the population. The delay most severely impacts the two states that hold legislative elections in odd-numbered years – Virginia and New Jersey. These states have made legislative or constitutional changes to use the existing maps for these elections rather than drawing new lines this year. FiveThirtyEight has a redistricting blog that is actively tracking the status of new maps by state.

Note: Metopio will update the geopolitical districts in the platform as soon as they are confirmed by the appropriate legislative body.

Churning racial identification

Racial and ethnic groups are not fixed divisions of society. 

Since the 2000 Census, participants have been able to check off more than one box when answering the race question on census forms. This self-selection and the evolving definitions of race and ethnicity contribute significantly to the sky-rocketing multi-racial population which increased by 276% since 2010 according to the U.S. Census.

The fact a person’s racial and ethnic identity can change from census to census causes churning and incentivizes focusing on groups that are made up of people who only marked one box.

The pandemic and racial unrest have shifted conversations around health and equity, most rooted in how people identify. Metopio will continue to follow guidance around racial and ethnic definitions, discuss impacts of disaggregation and participate in research around definitions for sexual orientation and gender identity because we believe these are critical to our understanding of community. 

Metopio shows you how population changes over time. Click on the map to explore how the Hispanic or Latino population at the ZIP code level in Virginia has changed over time.

Data at Metopio

Metopio is committed to curating verified data and providing you with what you need to make better decisions. We are continually updating and adding to our data dictionary.

If you have any questions or there are data sets that you are particularly interested in Contact us

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