What is the Latest on the 2020 Census? Highlights from the Census Bureau’s Recent Update

Author: Alex Brasch Published: August 3, 2021

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new blog post packed with information about what to expect when the much anticipated (and much delayed) 2020 Census data is released. Here are four key points from the post relevant to anyone leading an electoral redistricting project:

1. Yes, the Public Law 94-171 Redistricting Data Summary Files from the 2020 Census will be released this month.

The first data release will be by August 16. The data will be in an older “legacy” format making it available, but harder to use. The second data release will be by September 30 in a format that is easier to use. Both data releases will contain the exact same information.

2. The data will be released for all 50 states at once.

We’ll see data in every U.S. state released for counties, townships, cities, voting districts, school districts, tracts, and census blocks.

3. Differential privacy will be used to protect confidentiality.

The redistricting data will be the first 2020 Census data protected using differential privacy. The addition of “noise” to the data to protect confidentiality of responses may cause some issues when looking at the data at the smallest geographic level, the census block. If you have questions about how differential privacy may affect your redistricting initiative, get in touch with me at abrasch@flo-analytics.com.

4. The Census Bureau is standing behind the data.

Data collection challenges presented by the global pandemic, higher nonresponse rates for certain demographics than previous decennial censuses, and the application of differential privacy have all led to questions concerning the quality of the 2020 Census data. Despite these challenges, the Census Bureau is confident it overcame the hurdles and has produced high quality data that are fit to use for redistricting. We agree. Although potential data quality issues should be considered during redistricting, the 2020 Census data is the best available to complete the task at hand.

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Alex Brasch

Senior Population Geographer/Data Analyst

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