Every year since the country’s founding, Americans get a snapshot of who we are.
It’s called the U.S. Census and the data found in the 2020 Census, like every Census before it, reveals information that can have both a direct impact on citizens as well as information that lends itself to conjecture and, in some cases, distress depending on how a person sees the world and the people around them.
The impact of the Census can have a tangible effect since state representation in Congress and federal funds are distributed on the basis of population. The electoral college used to select our presidents is based on Congressional representation as well.
Mississippi felt the impact of the Census in a significant way in 2000, when the state’s population count caused its Congressional delegation to shrink from five to four.
While this 2020 Census showed Mississippi’s population has declined since the 2010 Census, the loss of population — roughly 6,000 people — was not enough to lose a seat in Congress. It is unlikely to mean a significant decrease in federal funds that are based on population, either.
Mississippi joined West Virginia and Illinois as the only states to lose population since 2010, for what it’s worth.
But there are some things found in Mississippi’s Census data that may cause either hand-wringing or hope, again depending on your general attitude toward race and what it means.
The most interesting nugget is what has happened with the white population of the state over the past 10 years. The state’s white population decreased by 48,000 — roughly the population of Biloxi, the state’s fourth largest city.
Meanwhile, the population of people of races other than white increased: 20,000 more Blacks, 16,700 more Hispanics, 4,500 more Asians and 11,200 more people of two or more races.
While white residents are still a majority (56 percent), their share of the population has fallen by 2 percent since 2010. The Black population is holding steady at 38 percent.
The biggest increase, by far, is what’s happening with the Hispanic population where numbers have increased by 32 percent. The Hispanic population remains relatively small — 45,300 — but the trend reflects real growth.
Data at the county and city levels will be made available by the Census Bureau this summer.
Bottom line? The data shows that our state may not be growing, but it is growing more diverse.
In a state that still celebrates Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday and sets aside the entire month of April as Confederate Heritage Month, this may not be welcomed news in some quarters.
But for those who believe a diverse population is something to be embraced and appreciated, it may be viewed as a sign of progress in a state where progress is measured in decades not years.