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2020 Census Results: A Top-Line Look for Real Estate Investors


Apr 27, 2021 by Marc Rapport
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The idea of counting heads is nothing new. Heck, one of the books of the Hebrew Bible -- Numbers -- leads off with just that: a census. Thousands of years later such polling was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution: way up front in Article 1, Section 2.

The Constitution calls for a head count every 10 years -- "decennially" is the 25-cent word for that -- and the outcome influences pretty much every aspect of civic life in America. The first census here was taken in 1790, and the fledgling federal government assigned that task to "marshals of the U.S. judicial districts."

There were 3.9 million inhabitants in that first count. However, "The 2020 Census shows that the resident population of the United States, including the 50 states and the District of Columbia, was 331,449,281 as of April 1, 2020, an increase of 7.4% since the 2010 Census," the U.S. Census Bureau -- officially founded in 1902 -- said this week when it announced the first results of last year's decennial count.

Census data is critical for countless purposes, beginning with allocation of government resources and power. The latter is headlined by political allocation: the distribution of congressional seats and electoral votes.

As it stands, Texas will gain two seats in the House of Representatives (and two electoral votes), and Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will each gain one. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will lose one seat and one electoral vote each.

But there's more -- a lot more. Census data is used to divvy up trillions of dollars of federal funds for highways and byways, public housing grants, you name it. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) did just that here: "Top Ways Census Data are Used: 2020 Census."

Where the markets are biggest and the growth is fastest -- and the opposite

For our real estate investing readers, let's focus now on where the population is growing and declining, because that would indicate from a top-line perspective where opportunity might be beckoning.

Here are the top and bottom five states, ranked by population in the 2020 U.S. Census:

State 2020 Population State 2020 Population
California 39,538,223 Wyoming 576,851
Texas 29,145,505 Vermont 643,077
Florida 21,538,187 Alaska 733,391
New York 20,201,249 North Dakota 779,094
Pennsylvania 13,002,700 South Dakota 886,667

Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 Census.

And here are the top and bottom five states, ranked by 2010-2020 population growth percentage in the 2020 U.S. Census:

State 2010-2020 Growth State 2010-2020 Growth
Utah 18.4% Connecticut 0.9%
Idaho 17.3% Michigan 2.0%
Texas 15.9% Ohio 2.3%
North Dakota 15.8% Wyoming 2.3%
Nevada 15.0% Pennsylvania 2.4%

Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 Census and 2010 Census.

While these numbers look big -- nearly 40 million people in the biggest state, for instance -- the 2020 Census actually showed the second-lowest level of growth in U.S. history. The pandemic and reluctance to participate in the government count may well have played a role, but these numbers will be used in a multitude of ways that affect real estate and its investors.

The Millionacres bottom line

These initial census figures will be followed by state and city analysis and then years of further slicing and dicing for demographics such as race, age, income, and more.

All this matters not just because growing markets seem more likely to be a good place to invest, but because census data also is used to determine where and how much government resources go toward things like tax-incentive housing programs and grants. Infrastructure investments also will be affected, and so much more.

The parsing has just begun, and the political dice are rolling. Now's the time to start thinking about how your area and investment strategies will be affected.

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