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Census: NY population rises 4% but state will still lose congressional seat

A neighborhood of houses over Nassau County is

A neighborhood of houses over Nassau County is seen in this aerial photo on March 1, 2020. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

New York's population topped 20 million people for the first time in 2020, an increase of just over 4% from a decade earlier, but it still will lose one congressional seat, as other states, largely in the South and West, had greater gains, according to the first results from the 2020 census that the U.S. Census Bureau released Monday afternoon.

New York's population total for 2020 was 20,201,249, a 4.2% increase over its 2010 total, according to the 2020 Census. The bureau is scheduled to release additional data from the census sometime between mid-August and the end of September. That data will include demographic information of race and ethnicity for all geographic areas: states, counties, towns, villages and hamlets. No race and ethnicity data was released Monday.

New York has been the fourth most populous state since 2014, when Florida overtook New York's third place position.

The overall population count for the United States from the 2020 census was 331,449,281, a 7.4% increase from 2010, below the 9.7% increase in the nation's population that occurred between 2000 and 2010, said Ron Jarmin, the bureau's acting director. He added it was the second lowest increase between two censuses. The lowest decrease came between 1930 and 1940.

The apportionment total, which for New York is 20,215,751, is slightly higher than the state population total because it includes federal employees, military and civilian, living overseas and their dependents living with them who are allocated to their home states.

In addition to New York, six other states will lose one congressional seat: California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. States that will gain one seat: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Texas will gain two seats.

The Census Bureau's scheduled release of the data was altered because of challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which delayed census takers from conducting their field operations for several months, such as door-to-door canvassing of addresses that had not responded to the census questionnaire.

"2020 brought unprecedented challenges: a pandemic, destructive wildfires, the most active hurricane season on record and civil unrest across the country" said Gina Raimondo, secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau.

Raimondo praised bureau workers who "had to adapt," as well as state and local governments and community groups for managing "to mount these hurdles and conduct a complete and accurate census count." She also thanked the public for their "overwhelming participation in the census."

What bureau officials did not highlight, though, was controversies swirling around the census under the Trump administration, that was unsuccessful in trying to incorporate a citizenship question on the census, which critics said they feared would dampen census participation among Latino immigrants and others. The Trump administration also wanted census officials to exclude noncitizens from the count, which President Joe Biden revoked upon taking office.

Some census experts were surprised — and pleased — with New York's population total.

"Overall we seem to have done better than anticipated, said Jeffrey M. Wice, adjunct professor and senior fellow at New York Census & Redistricting Institute at New York Law School. "New York only lost one congressional district, that’s the smallest loss since World War II."

New York lost two congressional seats after the 2010 census, bringing its total seats in the House of Representatives to 27. The loss of one seat after the 2020 census will mean New York's total will be 26 seats.

Wice added: "Losing only one congressional district and the population increasing overall was heartening. We were fearful because of the pandemic and Trump administration efforts to harm the census counting effort and politicizing it were all major threats. The Census Bureau had the time to get the job done. The Census Bureau received a great breath of fresh air in January when it was able to do its work unimpeded."

Jan Vink, a researcher at Cornell’s Program on Applied Demographics, said New York's population total "was higher than I expected for New York, a 4.2% increase over 2010. My gut feeling is that more people migrated from abroad to New York over the decade then we knew about."

Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, who coordinated census outreach efforts of scores of nonprofits and governments across the Island, praised the efforts of all involved.

"Because of that work we’re not losing more than one seat. Because of that work we can count on desperately needed federal dollars for things like infrastructure and education for the next 10 years, which is critically important," Sanin said. Census population figures drive some $675 billion or more annually to states and localities for scores of services and programs.

Ten most populous states in 2020

1. California: 39,538,223

2. Texas: 29,145,505

3. Florida: 21,538,187

4. New York: 20,201,249

5. Pennsylvania: 13,002,700

6. Illinois: 12,812,508

7. Ohio: 11,799,448

8. Georgia: 10,711,908

9. North Carolina: 10,439,388

10. Michigan: 10,077,331

SOURCE: 2020 Census, U.S. Census Bureau

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