Last Monday, the United States Census Bureau released its population figures from the 2020 Census. U.S. population growth has slowed to the lowest rate since the Great Depression, the Census Bureau said, as Americans continued their migration to the South and West.
The census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States reads “The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of 10 years, in such manner as they shall by Law direct.” Apportionment, the process of dividing the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states, is based on the state population counts that result from each decennial census, and is the original legal purpose of the census. The apportionment results determine the amount of political representation each state will have in Congress for the next 10 years; it also factors into what federal dollars each state receives. Monday’s announcement changed Congressional seating: Texas will gain two seats in the House of Representatives, five states will gain one seat each (Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon), seven states will lose one seat each (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia), and the remaining states’ number of seats will not change based on the 2020 Census. The governments of the states gaining or losing seats will have to redraw voting districts within the state, a process which varies in accordance with each state’s constitution.
The 2020 census has some wondering if the House of Representatives should increase its number of members. The Reapportionment Act of 1929, when the population of the US was roughly 123,076,741, established that there would be a cap of 435 seats (with the brief exception of when Alaska and Hawaii became states) in the House; with an increase in population over the past almost 100 years, the average size of a congressional district has more than tripled, leaving open the question of whether all people are being fairly represented.
This week’s current event dives into what the results of the census mean, and its impact on local state, and federal politics. There are primary sources, maps, and lesson plans on geo-civics, so that teachers can implement learning about the 2020 census to fulfill civics, geography, and sociology social studies standards.
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- Why is filling out the census every ten years an important part of civic engagement in the United States?
- How does geography impact where people decide to migrate?
- What are “push” and “pull” factors of migration, and how have they changed population statistics in the United States since the last census in 2010?
- What “push” and “pull” factors influence corporations to move to a different state?
- How have the millennial generation’s choices of where to live reshaped the country’s political geography over the past decade?
- Why do demographers believe that the US population growth will continue to slow?
- Should the number of seats in the House of Representatives increase based on today’s population demographics? Why or why not?
Consider This: New Census Numbers Mean A Political Power Shift For Some States
US Census Fast Facts, CNN, April 28, 2021
US marks slowest population growth since the Depression, AP News, April 26, 2021.
5 visuals explain the shifting House seats and how the changes could affect the 2022 midterm elections, USA Today, April 26, 2021
Some lower-tax states won big in the 2020 census count. Are Americans really moving to escape the taxman?, Market Watch, April 28, 2021
Young adults’ relocations are reshaping political geography, AP News, April 25, 2021
California Dreaming? Not These Days, US News and World Report, April 28, 2021
D.C.’s explosive growth continued over the past decade, census data shows, The Washington Post, April 26, 2021
Oregon map drawing lawmakers respond to new congressional seat, The Blue Mountain Eagle, April 28, 2021
The census is a lucky break for Republicans, CNN, April 27, 2021
OUR VIEW | Census figures: Civic engagement pays off for state, Mankato Free Press, April 28, 2021
Articles for Younger Students:
How the 2020 census shifted House seats and could affect 2022 midterm elections, Newsela, May 11, 2021
The History of the Census, Newsela (adapted from National Geographic), Jan. 2, 2020
More jobs, inexpensive housing pulling Americans to South, West to live, Newsela, Jan. 19, 2016
Historical Apportionment Data Map, 1910-2020, US Census Bureau
- Interactive Maps, US Census Bureau
Visualizing 200 Years of U.S. Population Density, Visual Capitalist
Census Academy, US Census Bureau
History Worksheets (all grades), US Census Bureau
Welcome to GeoCivics, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):
Media Literacy Resources – Newseum
News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense
Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming
Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons