STUMP » Articles » Data Quickie: 2020 Census Affected by COVID, and Pre-COVID Population Numbers » 14 July 2020, 16:57

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Data Quickie: 2020 Census Affected by COVID, and Pre-COVID Population Numbers  


14 July 2020, 16:57

In the last data quickie post, I looked at the estimated changes in population by state from 2010 to 2019, and thought about effects on House of Representatives apportionment. I will return to those estimates in a bit, because there’s a separate wrinkle that I didn’t mention.

Namely: the date on which the official Census measurement is done. April 1.

Census enumeration during lockdown

One of the things people squawked about as lockdowns spread across the country is how some very well-heeled folks managed to get out of New York City (and potentially infect where they went to) before getting locked down there.

Well, that lockdown in New York started on March 22.

Census Day — when you’re supposed to indicate where you physically were — is April 1.

Let’s see what the New York Times says: Rich New Yorkers Aren’t Filling Out the Census. Poor New Yorkers May Suffer.

If residents who fled the virus for second homes aren’t counted, the city could lose out on crucial federal money — and congressional seats.

When city officials took on the herculean task of getting every New York City household to fill out the census, an eat-your-vegetables exercise that provides millions in federal aid to low-income residents, they didn’t expect the Upper East Side to pose much of a problem.

But the coronavirus has upended census-takers’ best-laid plans. And that may have serious financial implications for the city.

Only 46 percent of Upper East Side households have filled out their census forms, according to a June 25 report circulated by the Department of City Planning’s chief demographer, Joseph J. Salvo — well below the neighborhood’s final response rate in 2010, and short of the current citywide rate of almost 53 percent.

For what it’s worth, 53 percent is a bad response rate for the Census. The current nationwide response rate is 62%.New York state as a whole is about 58% (ew.)

Only about 38 percent of households in Midtown Manhattan have filled out their census forms — the second-worst response rate in all of New York City, after North Corona, Queens, which is at about 37 percent. The rate is only slightly better in the area encompassing SoHo, Tribeca, Civic Center and Little Italy, which is home to wealthy residents as well as many college students; those tracts have response rates of about 46 percent.
Some of these census tracts include the city’s most exclusive stretches of real estate, like the Fifth Avenue corridor between 70th and 35th Streets, which the planning department said was “home to some of the lowest levels of self-response in the city.”

Even if New Yorkers have asked the Postal Service to forward mail to their second homes, census forms are addressed to the household, not the individual, which — unless New Yorkers pay for premium forwarding — prevents the post office from including them with the forwarded mail.

Officials hope that many of the coronavirus evacuees will return by the end of October, the new extended deadline for final responses to the census. But with Manhattan parents now enrolling children in schools outside the city, it is not clear that the evacuees will return to New York City in time.

Or return to NYC at all.

“New Yorkers that have left the city and that then are not doing their civic duty and filling the census out are truly hurting our city — not just this year but for 10 years to come,” said Julie Menin, the director of NYC Census 2020.

And if those people decided to permanently move to Florida or Texas or anywhere else but New York, then they are doing their civic duty by not lying as to where they actually live.

She should ask Detroit about losing almost of a quarter of its population from 2000 to 2010..

It’s hard to feel bad about representation dropping because people really aren’t there.

Different visualization of population changes 2010-2019

I am not apologizing for the size of this graph. Yes, I’m putting every state in here (not DC or Puerto Rico, unlike last time, as neither get a voting member in the House of Reps, though they do have electors for the Presidential Election.)

Okay, that’s not exactly nice of me. You can easily see the top 4 states, and I will explain the coloring of the lines:

  • the darkest green lines had growth >10%
  • medium green is 5 – 10%
  • black is 0 – 5%
  • the red doublelines (in case you’re colorblind) shows decreasing population.

So California grew moderately, Texas and Florida both grew a lot, and New York was essentially flat. NY is probably going to lose at least one seat in the House of Representatives. I will talk more about that next week, because I just want to focus on this graph. It’s called a line slope graph, and it helps you see how ranking changes, and the direction of change between two points in time.

The big huge graph is not really fair. Let’s focus on segments.

Next tier below New York:

Illinois decreased. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan are moribund. Georgia and North Carolina were actually pretty close to jumping to the top growth rates.

While some areas do seem to be growing (West and South/Southeast) and other areas decreasing (Midwest and Northeast), you’ll see that the rate of change can differ quite a bit among neighboring states. Yes, tax policy influences this quite a bit…

[By the way, my comment about air conditioning and deodorant last week was a joke]

…but even some high-tax places managed to get in some sizable population growth. Obviously, California had moderate growth, and that’s not a place known for low taxes.

Let’s look at the next tier:

Virginia has grown moderately, some of that driven due to its bordering DC, no doubt. Washington state and Arizona are both at 13% – 14% growth. Arizona doesn’t surprise me, given its attractiveness as a retirement spot, but Washington state did surprise me a little. I guess a lot of that is due to growth in tech industries.

Similarly, both Tennessee and Massachusetts saw moderate growth. Again, Massachusetts is not known for being a low tax locale, but I believe tech businesses around Boston have grown. Nashville, Tennessee in particular I know had grown as an area for all sorts of business, including convention business (I’ve been there for Society of Actuaries gatherings multiple times in the past 5 years.)

I do want to remark that we’re seeing crossovers here in state rankings — Arizona zoomed up past Indiana and Massachusetts, for instance, and Tennessee crossed over Indiana. When you see lines crossing, that means a switching in ranking. That’s one of the things slope line graphs are good at highlighting.

Next tier:

Colorado, South Carolina, and Oregon are the big growers here. Minnesota has decent growth. But lots of black as most of these are barely growing, and then old Connecticut on the bottom with its slight decrease in population. Missing out on Census responses will really hurt them.

Final tier:

This is likely where a lot of the fighting for single seats will come from. You can see a bunch of crossovers in population: Utah jumped over 4 other states in population between 2010 and 2019. Nevada merely jumped over three — remember that Nevada had a really bad real estate problem when the credit bubble burst in 2008, but even so, they’ve been growing.

I know it may not be all that clear, but West Virginia and Vermont are the two states with decreasing population.

I will get into it more next week, but the states with 1 million or fewer people likely will all have 1 representative after reapportionment. It takes a lot of growth to get out of that teeny bucket, and you can’t drop to below one representative, as long as the state remains a state.

Even with growth and decreases, just from a pure ranking point of view, few states lose their place in the ranking, even with such disparate growth rates. It mainly happens among states that are close in population to begin with. However, in a few cases, when you have a state that is growing rapidly and others that are not… yes, they get supplanted.

Then there’s taxes…

This is going to be the comeback of Taxing Tuesday, I can feel it in my bones. There are going to be many disputes over state (and city) taxation for 2020, and the tax lawyers are going to have a fabulous time. The states are likely to be desperate for revenue — they already are right now — and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us got double-taxed. Something to look forward to.

Given the snowbird pattern, I think a lot of NY folks got stuck in places like Florida for longer than they’d usually be there. Most NYers who go there make sure that they get taxed at Florida rates, if possible, but it can be that some who usually go to Florida for only a short period find they’re there for over half a year.

Official word on those who have multiple homes

So let’s look at what the Census bureau says about people with multiple homes:

People Who Have Multiple Residences

If you live at multiple places throughout the year, count yourself at the address where you live and sleep most of the time. If you split your time evenly between two or more places, count yourself where you were staying on April 1, 2020.

There are two parts here — first, some people simply answer where ever they were on April 1, and don’t bother with trying to figure exact percentages [except for the tax strategy thing].

Multiple people may be thinking that they no longer need to keep their NYC-area residences.

Those who rented will find it easy to walk away. Those who owned may find it difficult to sell. Most people don’t want to take a capital loss, even if they can write it off on their taxes.

Census response rates a problem in Chicago, too

For my wrap-up, let’s not forget Chicago, which has its own Census problems.

So here’s the Census Cowboy to help.

I’m not exactly sure how that’s supposed to help, but there ya go.

This has been quite the year, hasn’t it?