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Potential Shifts in Political Power After the 2020 Census

The results of the 2020 Census will determine the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the upcoming decade. If current population trends hold, there will be substantial changes in congressional representation.

Published: March 27, 2018

The results of the 2020 Census will determ­ine the appor­tion­ment of seats in the U.S. House of Repres­ent­at­ives for the upcom­ing decade. If current popu­la­tion trends hold up for the remainder of this decade, there likely will be substan­tial changes in congres­sional repres­ent­a­tion come reap­por­tion­ment time.

Since 2010, the coun­try’s popu­la­tion has grown and shif­ted consid­er­ably. Popu­la­tion growth in west­ern and south­ern states has outpaced the Midw­est and the North­east. The ten fast­est grow­ing states between 2017 and 2018 all were in the South and West, includ­ing Nevada, Utah, and Texas. Mean­while, states in the North­east and Midw­est regions have grown more slowly than the 5.3 percent U.S. aver­age popu­la­tion growth rate. In the North­east partic­u­larly, popu­la­tion growth has lagged behind every other region in the coun­try this decade.

As a result of these trends, 16 states will see a shift in congres­sional reap­por­tion­ment in 2020, accord­ing to a new report by Elec­tion Data Services. The biggest seat gains will likely be seen in Flor­ida and Texas. Texas is likely to gain three congres­sional seats, which would give the state 39 seats in Congress. Flor­ida is expec­ted to gain up to two addi­tional congres­sional seats, bring­ing its total deleg­a­tion to 29 start­ing in 2022. Many states that are taking in large numbers of Amer­ic­ans from other parts of the coun­try – Arizona, Color­ado, North Caro­lina, Montana, and Oregon –will also gain at least one seat.

The estim­ates also signal likely seat losses for the Midw­est and the North­east. As a result of popu­la­tion decline and slower rate of growth, Elec­tion Data Services projects that Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia will lose at least one congres­sional seat, with New York poten­tially losing a second, as well. Cali­for­nia and Minnesota are border­line cases, with each facing the possib­il­ity of losing up to one seat.


Figure 1: “Census Projec­tions for 2020 Congres­sional Reap­por­tion­ment: Net Change in Total Congres­sional Seats.” Elec­tion Data Services. Decem­ber 19, 2018. Source.

Notably, these estim­ates do not account for poten­tial under­counts during the 2020 Census. Yet, as the Bren­nan Center and many others have warned, the Commerce Depart­ment’s decision to add a citizen­ship ques­tion to the census could produce severe under­counts in many places through­out the coun­try. The citizen­ship ques­tion partic­u­larly threatens an accur­ate count in states whose growth this past decade is dispro­por­tion­ately attrib­ut­able to a growth in immig­rant house­holds and communit­ies of color. The on-going litig­a­tion to remove the citizen­ship ques­tion, if it succeeds, could play a signi­fic­ant role in ensur­ing that the 2020 Census, and, in turn, congres­sional appor­tion­ment, accur­ately reflect the coun­try’s demo­graphic tends.