2020 Census Surprises for D.C.

The first detailed results of the 2020 Census have been reported out and there were some surprises for the District of Columbia.

D.C.’s population grew at the seventh fastest rate of all states and territories in the U.S. – a 14.7 percent increase since 2010. But the overall population isn’t as large as has been touted for at least three years. Who will tell Mayor Muriel Bowser’s three-year old-plus daughter that she was not the 700,000th resident in the District – as was proudly proclaimed by her mom at the time of her birth? In fact, the official 2020 total population of D.C. is 689,545.

The 2020 Census did confirm, however, what Bowser and the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey increasingly have proclaimed over the past few years: “Washington, D.C., is no longer a chocolate city.” While the percentage of the Black/African American population has been decreasing from its high of around 70 percent, the 2020 Census reported that Blacks make up only 43.9 percent of the total District population.

The non-Hispanic White population makes up 42.31 percent of the official racial makeup of the population, according to the 2020 Census, while self-identified ethnic Hispanic/Latinos – who racially are considered to be mostly white – make up 12.23 percent of D.C.’s population. Some would say then that 54.54 percent of D.C.’s population is racially White.

The District’s percentage of Asian population has also increased to about 4.5 percent. D.C. continues to have more females than males, about 51 vs. 49 percent respectively. Making up almost 33 percent of the total D.C. population are 25-44 year-olds, the largest age group by far.

It is the underestimation of the overall population that has some in the D.C. leadership concerned. Some claimed there was an undercount. But no one discounted the significance of the Census numbers for the District.

Unlike in the 50 states, the U.S. Census report does not affect the number of representatives D.C. has in Congress, since as a District it has no direct elected representatives in that body. Still, the Census numbers affect the make-up of local government representatives in ward and advisory neighborhood commissions boundaries, as well as decisions by businesses where to invest and also significantly, the allocation of federal monies.

“The city redraws its ward boundaries every 10 years based on the decennial Census, and that also affects the makeup of ANCs the elected bodies that represent District residents on the neighborhood level,” Andrew Reamer, a research professor at George Washington University told WAMU radio recently. “Businesses also run on Census data. I live in Cleveland Park, and there’s a Target up the street from me,” Reamer says. “There’s also a Target in Columbia Heights. But they don’t carry the same inventory of goods, because Target knows from Census data that people who live in Columbia Heights are going to buy some things that are different from people who live in Cleveland Park.”

“What surprised me nationally in the 2020 Census racial and ethnic population report was the increase of the population that identified as “mixed race,” “2-or-more races” and “other race,” Frey said on CNN’s “Smerconish” on Aug. 15. “Increasingly as the U.S. population intermarries, their offspring will be mixed-race. You see it in our leadership such as Barrack Obama and Kamala Harris.”

“The fastest growing intermarriage rates in the U.S. in the past decade are Latinos and Asians,” Mark Lopez of the Pew Hispanic Research Center has reported. “By 2050 we will see categories for identifying our population change from racial and ethnic identities,” Frey concluded. The present ones are increasingly vague. Economic and social data could be more conclusive.”

Specific local data, including Ward 2 and Georgetown, will be released in the fall. States are anxious for the details because the 10-year redistricting process for Congressional seats is supposed to be determined before 2022 midterm elections. The 2020 Census is late to report due to the Covid pandemic shut downs.



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