The Census Bureau has started releasing data from the 2020 Decennial Census. The Census data is comprehensive, attempting to count every single person living in the United States, which means that the data collected isn’t as detailed as other data sources. However, we can use it to understand population shifts within our communities, like changes that happened within Detroit City Council Districts, as we’ll explore in this blog.
In addition to population totals, the topics covered by the 2020 Census include:
- Population totals by race and by Hispanic/Latino origin
- Voting-age population (18 and older) totals by race and Hispanic/Latino origin
- Housing unit counts
- Occupancy status (occupied or vacant) for housing units
- Additional demographic statistics for age groups, sex, and race and ethnicity
Census data also comes in a variety of geographic aggregations from census-defined blocks to cities and counties up to the state and national level. Not all of this data is publicly available yet, and the Census Bureau hasn’t provided a clear timeline as to when the data will become available. While the list may appear meager, this data will be used by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, educational institutions, and community advocates to make important decisions for the next decade. These can include determining the location of new public housing and facilities, planning the transportation system, creating localized areas for schools and utilities, and changing the borders of election districts. This last one is commonly referred to as redistricting, and is important for elections from local municipalities up to the federal government.
Census and Elections
In 2018, Michigan created the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw the boundaries of state House, Senate, and Congressional Districts. To portion these out equitably they will refer to population demographic data from the US Census. The electors that represent each state in the Electoral College are also determined by population count, as well as the number of seats that represent Michigan in the House of Representatives. Though Michigan’s population has increased since 2010, its share of the total US population has dropped relative to other states. Therefore Michigan will be losing a vote in the electoral college and congressional district/seat starting in 2022.
Census and Funding
Census data impacts funding streams that are based on population counts, population under the poverty level, and other Census-documented things. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance defines four types of federal assistance in the form of direct loans, direct payments for specified use, formula grants, and project grants. Although there are many other types of federal funds, their allocation doesn’t depend on census data. Read more in our post The Census’ Effect on State and Local Budgeting. The allocation of different types of funds that are dependent on Census population and demographic data often are used in combination with other data to determine need. When the population of an area, or certain portions of the population are undercounted relative to other areas, they will likely miss out on funding that would otherwise be appropriated.
Population Changes in Detroit’s City Council Districts
Some of the most common data requests we’ve been receiving recently have been asking about the population changes for Detroit’s city council districts. With the release of the population data from the 2020 Census we can analyze changes in Detroit’s population distribution since the 2010 Census. While the city lost population overall, the proportion of residents living in certain city council districts changed.
District 4 had the largest decrease in population—losing 19,167 residents since 2010, or 20.2%—which also corresponds to a 1.4% loss in proportion of the Detroit population compared to the other council districts. District 1, on the other hand, had a 1.1% increase in the proportion of the Detroit population despite losing 3.8% of its population since 2010.
We can also see how the individual districts compare to Detroit overall. Districts 1, 2, and 7 all lost a lower percentage of their overall population than the city did. Comparatively, Districts 3, 4, 5, and 6 all lost more, with District 4 losing nearly twice the percentage of population that Detroit did overall. What we cannot distinguish from this information is how much of the population moved between districts compared to how many moved out of the city entirely.
Comparing the Decennial Census to the American Community Survey
While the Census data is comprehensive in terms of attempting to count every US resident, it does not provide detailed information about those residents such as income level or educational attainment. For this more detailed information we often turn to the American Community Survey (ACS), which is an ongoing survey that the Census Bureau conducts annually, but with a smaller sample of respondents. As we covered in a blog post a few months ago with a more thorough comparison between the two surveys “Census 2020: What Questions Can Census Data Answer”, the ACS covers nearly 50 topics. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, there have been delays and changes to the data that will be provided for the 2020 ACS data release as well. Those changes are still being figured out at the Census Bureau, and we will try to help you stay informed about new data releases for Detroit as they happen.
This is part of a series of blog posts we’ve been writing in anticipation of and following the 2020 Census. As more Census data are progressively released over the next few months, keep an eye out for more of our posts to help you make sense of the role the Census plays in our lives. And, as always, if you have specific questions, please reach out to our AskD3 program. We provide answers to questions that can help you provide more efficient and effective programs to the community!
Census 2020 Blog Posts
- What is the Census?
- U.S. Census Budget Introduction
- 2020 Census Budget Challenges
- 2020 Cost-Saving Innovations
- How Does the Census Use Local Administrative Data?
- Data Security and the Census
- Redistricting and the Census
- Measuring Hard to Count Populations
- Census 2010’s Hard to Count Outreach Efforts
- Planned Hard to Count Programs for 2020
- The Digital Divide and Census 2020
- The Census’ Effect on State and Local Budgeting