Race, reapportionment: 2020 Census

Cube Root Rule

census2020-storyimageAs you may know, I was an enumerator for both the 1990 and the 2020 Census. That means I went door-to-door, getting the responses from people who had not mailed in the form (both years). In 2020, they could also have called in the information or responded online, so they had even more opportunities to do it themselves.

Enumerating in 2020 was more difficult than in 1990. For one thing, because of the pandemic, the process started later in the year. I was working in May 1990, but not until August 2020.

So what was the biggest takeaway for me? The Census allowed the ability to choose more than one race for the first time in 2000, thanks to a 1997 OMB memorandum. “204.3 million people [identified] as White alone. Overall, 235.4 million people reported White alone or in combination with another group. However, the White alone population has decreased by 8.6% since 2010.

“The Two or More Races population (also referred to as the Multiracial population) has changed considerably since 2010. The Multiracial population was measured at 9 million people in 2010 and is now 33.8 million people in 2020, a 276% increase. The ‘in combination’” multiracial populations for all race groups accounted for most of the overall changes in each racial category.”

Redefining self

Back in 2000, I was at a New York State Data Center meeting, because that’s what I did. I expected that the multiracial category wouldn’t be too great numerically in the first iteration. It was because how one saw race was so tied to the era in which people grew up.

So someone such as Barack Obama, in 1970, 1980, and 1990 Censuses, would almost certainly be categorized as black/African American per Census rules of the time. But he COULD have been listed as black AND white in the last three Censuses. Since these are self-identified categories, and the results are confidential until at least 2072, we won’t know unless he chooses to disclose them.

Personally, I clicked on the box marked Black in 2020, although nearly 40% of my DNA is from Europe, almost all of it from the islands of Ireland and Great Britain, something I did not know in 1990 and 2000.

Pew survey notes: “In 1967, when miscegenation laws were overturned in the United States, 3% of all newlyweds were married to someone of a different race or ethnicity. Since then, intermarriage rates have steadily climbed. By 1980, the share of intermarried newlyweds had about doubled to 7%. And by 2015 the number had risen to 17%.”


Another implication will take place when the reapportionment of Congressional and state legislative districts takes place in the next year. When drawing lines, how will the majority-minority areas be designated? The Supreme Court allowed in the Johnson case (515 U.S. 900 (1995)) “affirmative gerrymandering/racial gerrymandering”, where “racial minority-majority electoral districts are created during redistricting to increase minority Congressional representation.”

New York State lost a Congressional seat as a result of the newest Census. The local Spectrum News recently inaccurately said that it was a result of the state losing people; untrue. It gained population, but not as quickly as other states.

In fact, the loss occurred because the House has been capped at 435 members since 1929. Suggestions such as the Cube Root Rule would raise the number of House members and New York would NOT lose a seat but would rather gain a few.

We’re in a period when people can give feedback about the reapportionment process. For instance, the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission was formed in 2014 for this very purpose.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard that some folks in Saratoga County, north of Albany, do not want to be represented by Elise Stefanik, a Republican House leader who has been a staunch supporter of the 45th president. This will be an interesting time for the state legislatures around the country.

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