By on 4.26.21 in Carolina Demographics, Census 2020

The U.S. Census Bureau plans to release the latest state population counts on April 26, 2021 at 3 PM ET. These numbers, the first results from the 2020 Census, are used to determine how many congressional seats each state has in the House of Representatives.

We’ve received a lot of questions about the upcoming release. I recently spoke to Rebecca Tippett, the founding director of Carolina Demography, about the release and what’s expected to happen in North Carolina.

If you have additional questions, please email demography@unc.edu and we’ll do our best to answer them!

What is expected to be released today?

The Census Bureau will be releasing the population totals for the nation and the states, as well as the apportionment totals. These are the state population totals and are used to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives.

When is this information typically released?

In a normal census, this information is released by December 31 in the same year of the census – so we normally would have received this data by December 31, 2020. The data has been delayed by four months because of the impacts of COVID-19 on census data collection and processing. Local data for redistricting has also been delayed: typically, this would be delivered by March 31 but now is not going to be fully delivered until September 30, though the Bureau may make information available earlier in a legacy format.

What do these delays mean for redistricting and elections this year?

These delays compress the timeline for redistricting significantly, potentially shifting elections to 2022. According to the NC State Board of Elections: “If changes are needed to the districts of municipal offices elected by district, and the census data is not released in time, elections for these offices scheduled to take place in the fall of 2021 could be postponed until 2022.”

What is expected to happen in North Carolina?

North Carolina is predicted to pick up a 14th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, based on population estimates and projections made prior to the 2020 Census. So our U.S. House districts will need to be redrawn to account for this change, as well as population changes over the decade.

What’s the chatter among demographers about this?

The apportionment numbers released by April 30 will be our first look at results from the 2020 Census, so everyone’s excited to see these official results. But of greater interest in the data release are the first set of data quality metrics and the demonstration products about the 2020 Census Disclosure Avoidance System and the potential implications this has for the 2020 redistricting files scheduled for release in September.

Many of us are also looking further down the road to the release of information about the census accuracy based on the Post-Enumeration Survey. These data are currently scheduled for release in late 2021 for the nation and early 2022 for states.