State Winners & Losers From Census Bureau Redistricting

Before I get into our main topic, let me briefly mention today’s government report on 1Q Gross Domestic Product. The Commerce Department reported this morning that its “advance” estimate shows the economy growing at an annual rate of 6.4% in the 1Q, about in-line with pre-report expectations. It was the second-fastest growth rate since 2003. I’ll have more details in next Tuesday’s Forecasts & Trends. Now onto our topic for today.

When the Census Bureau released the findings from its 2020 population survey on Monday, its findings have been widely reported and analyzed over and over by the media. We all know the highlights by now, with some states losing a congressional district based on population change, and some states gaining a district based on population growth over the last decade. Texas will actually gain two new congressional districts based on its huge growth since 2010.

Given the non-stop coverage in the mainstream media, I didn’t think I would write about the Census Bureau population survey this week. However, there is one aspect of the Census Bureau survey which has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. That is: How do states enact the redistricting process? Put differently, who decides where and how new congressional districts are created and just as importantly, where and how are districts eliminated?

The simple answer is, different states do it in different ways, as I will discuss below. I don’t think most Americans know how this works (I didn’t know some of the details myself), so that’s what we’ll discuss today.

As noted above, several states saw their population shrink over the last decade, some saw their populations increase but most stayed about the same. The results are illustrated in the chart below.

As you can see in the chart, most of the states which saw their populations shrink were in the Democratic-leaning Upper Midwest and California (which saw its population shrink for the first time in history). Those which gained one new congressional district were spread out around the country and included several Republican-leaning states, including Texas which grew the most and will gain two new districts going forward.

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