Coverage ideas: Census and changing demographics

The Constitution requires that the government count the population every 10 years for the purpose of determining how to allocate congressional representation, but the demographic data collected now is used for a lot more than just that, including steering $1.5 trillion of federal spending. Results from the 2020 census, which was complicated by accusations of politicization and challenges of the count during a pandemic (which delayed the results), show some significant changes. Compared to a decade ago, the nation is more diverse with sizable growth among the Hispanic and Asian populations. The percentage of white residents is smaller, offset by a growth in people identifying as belonging to two or more races. More people live in cities and suburbs than rural areas. Some areas in Florida and Texas have seen double-digit growth since 2010, and the top 10 cities each have at least 1 million residents for the first time.

Key question: How has your community changed since the 2010 census?

  • What are the notable changes in your community from the 2020 census? 
  • Which demographics have increased, and which have decreased? How do these align with or differ from the major national trends?
  • What is the impact of these changes — different legislative boundaries, focus on different groups?
  • Based on these early census data, do students in your school think programs or funding should be changed?
  • 2020 Census Statistics Highlight Local Population Changes and Nation’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity (U.S. Census Bureau, Aug. 12)
  • U.S. Census quick facts 
  • EXPLAINER: 5 takeaways from the release of 2020 census data (Associated Press, Aug. 12)
  • AP Census Hub collects all stories from the Associated Press on the topic, which is an excellent source of story ideas.
  • Census Reporter has lots of explanation on the data as well as some story ideas. 
  • Census shows US is diversifying, white population shrinking (Associated Press, Aug. 12) — “Some demographers cautioned that the white population was not shrinking as much as shifting to multiracial identities. The number of people who identified as belonging to two or more races more than tripled from 9 million people in 2010 to 33.8 million in 2020. They now account for 10% of the U.S. population.”
  • Multiracial boom reflects US racial, ethnic complexity (Associated Press, Aug. 13) — Changes in how the census asked questions and how responses were processed account for some of the change. There’s also less stigma to being multiracial and more discussion about it. “In an age of easily accessible DNA testing kits, the growth reflects a deepening of the way Americans think about themselves when it comes to racial identity, experts say.”
  • Where the Racial Makeup of the U.S. Shifted in the Last Decade (The New York Times, Aug. 12) — “Nearly every county in the United States became more diverse in the last decade as the nation recorded its first drop in the white population in 2020, according to detailed data on race and ethnicity released by the Census Bureau on [Aug. 12]. More than a third of the nation now lives in counties where people of color are a majority.”
  • The New York Times also has a running page of census data stories and how they affect everything from understanding demographic shifts to how that impacts things like political reapportionment and redistricting.

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

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