This was a big week for America’s political numbers nerds. That’s because on Thursday the Census Bureau released its detailed population data from the 2020 census. These figures will be the raw material for the once-every-10-years redrawing of hundreds of congressional districts and thousands of state legislative districts across the United States.
The census data is also a portrait of the nation – what our race or ethnicity is, how old we are, where we live, and other such details.
Among the notable findings was that the number of white people in the U.S. declined for the first time since 1790. The growth in the Latino population slightly exceeded forecasts.
The share of children in the population declined, due to falling birthrates. Overall population growth slowed substantially.
Notably, big cities grew faster the past 10 years than experts had predicted. At the same time rural America shrank, both in total numbers and relative to metropolitan populations.
In fact, crunching the numbers, this may mean that the starkest geographic and political divide in America is no longer between the North and its blue states and the South and its red states.
“The partisan difference between large-metro and rural residents has become much larger than the gap between northerners and southerners,” writes Boston College political scientist David A. Hopkins on his Honest Graft blog.
Professor Hopkins points out that inside the South’s red states are the big, very blue dots of cities – think Houston and Atlanta. Outside the North’s urban areas, rural hinterlands are becoming deeper red.
So maybe U.S. states aren’t really red or blue. Maybe we should look at them all as various shades of purple.