The Census Data Has Arrived. Here’s What You Need to Know.

May 20, 2021

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The geospatial community has been talking about the 2020 Census since 2011. Who knew that a pandemic would steal the spotlight?! But at the same time that the pandemic was taking attention away from the census, it was creating an unprecedented, worldwide need to understand population density and mobility. 

“While those of us in geography and GIS have long used census data, ... some people outside of geography are surprised that geographers have been a fundamental part of census operations for decades,” Dr. Joseph Kerski commented in his interview with GeoInspiration, Jim Castagneri

Indeed, the geospatial community uses these data as a touchstone for all kinds of projects, but how much do you really know about the census

Are you aware that the data is free? Despite the pandemic, the 2020 U.S. Census still happened, with the data coming in phases as expected; the 2020 Census Apportionment Results were released just weeks ago. Older data and tools, like the Business Builder, are available now. If you need training, the Census Virtual Academy is available to sharpen your skills. 

Do you know what changes with this new data? In 2017, we learned of sweeping design changes, and in a March 2020 podcast, we discussed what comes next for GIS professionals

All areas of our everyday lives are affected by this data and how it’s analyzed--everything from modeling disease to the distribution of political power. Dr. Diana Sinton wrote about what’s involved with redistricting in 2019, and a recent webinar demonstrated an easy tool to provide transparency into this critical process. Recently released maps from Esri highlight 2020 Population Change and Seats Gained/Lost and visualize Change in Resident Population Compared to National Change, 2010 to 2020. Click any state to see how they fared over the decade. 

Take the time to dig into these resources, learn more about the census, and consider how population changes will influence your life and work in the coming years.


Esri's Change in Resident Population Compared to National Change, 2010 to 2020 map reflects the latest census data.

Reposted from The DirectionsMag Geospatial Community Blog, an extension of Directions Magazine. Visit us for daily geospatial news, exclusive articles, geospatial webinars, and podcasts. If you are interested in contributing, please email 


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