State Census Initiative Fights an Uphill Battle

Gov. Kay Ivey leads a rally calling for Alabama residents to participate in the 2020 Census that officially begins on April 1, but her trumpeting — culminating two years of state awareness efforts — is not likely to turn a tide of declining population and loss of an Alabama congressional seat.

Alabama’s rate of population growth has declined significantly in the last decade, as has that of many states and many countries around the world. It’s just that Alabama, being relatively small, can’t afford the drop, especially in a region, the South, that is supposed to be gaining on others.

Alabama is one of 10 states likely to lose a congressional seat in a reapportionment following the 2020 census, according to Election Data Services, a political consulting firm that specializes in redistricting. Other losers are Rhode Island, West Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and California.

Except for Alabama, the Southern states are not on that list, because of a longstanding shift of populations going back to 1930. “It is a movement away from the Northeast and the Upper Midwest to the South and to the West,” says Kimball Brace, the president of Election Data Services.

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Two years ago, the state of Alabama began awarding federally funded grants to communities to promote awareness of the 2020 Census, an initiative branded AlabamaCounts!

“Even if the efforts of Alabama Counts! are exceedingly successful, Alabama may well lose a congressional seat. Census workers simply cannot count people who are not here,” concludes a 2019 study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

According to U.S. Census Bureau’s projections for 2020, Alabama’s population is estimated to be 4.91 million. The most recent U.S. Census, in 2010, recorded the population of Alabama as 4,779,736.

Alabama’s population was recently eclipsed by South Carolina’s, pushing Alabama to 24th in state rank by total population. Alabama’s population growth rate is at 0.257 percent a year, which ranks it as the 36th fastest growing state.

A growth rate of 0.2 percent is considered marginal for maintaining a growing economy, and many countries and states have already dipped below that level. Spain, for example, is at 0.2 percent and Italy and Greece have slipped into negative growth, each at -0.1 percent.

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