Category Archives: census

Cuban-Americans: An important island *in* Florida

Even before U.S. and Cuban negotiators met Thursday for talks on resuming relations, presidential campaign staffs had been focusing on effects of the thaw and the outsized role that Cuban-Americans may play in next year’s election, especially among Hispanics.

The reason: They are more likely to vote than other Hispanic groups and are highly concentrated in Florida, a swing state, making them easier to reach for issues and fundraising.

In wooing immigrant voters, politicians weigh totals but also the share who are voters, which may be relatively small because many aren’t citizens or don’t register. Hispanics made up 17% of the population in 2012, but just 10% of voters.

Cubans, however, are overrepresented. Nationwide, they were 4% of Hispanics in 2012 but 7% of Hispanic voters. Two-thirds of eligible Cubans voted, compared with just under half of all Hispanics.

HispanicGroupVoting2012

In Florida, Cubans represented 36% of Hispanic voters, according to an exit poll by Bendixen & Armandi, a Hispanic research firm. Puerto Ricans made up 27% and voters from South America, 22%.

Another key factor: fully half of all Cuban-Americans live in just two southeast Florida counties — Miami-Dade and Broward — and  60% live in just nine Florida counties. That helps fund-raising, advertising, making appearances and driving turnout.

And they have become a swing bloc in a swing state. The Cuban-American community had already drifted from fierce anti-Castro roots and solid GOP support. Exit polls showed that Florida’s Cuban-Americans split about evenly between President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012,  helping the president win Florida.

Add the announced or likely GOP presidential candidacies of two major Florida politicians — former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, himself the son of Cuban immigrants — and Cuban-Americans may be harbingers of the election.

By comparison, there are almost  as many Salvadoran-Americans as Cuban-Americans, according to 2013 Census data. But 59% of Salvadoran-American adults are not citizens and can’t register to vote, compared with just 29% of Cuban-American adults.

Less well-known but growing in importance: Florida’s 600,000 Puerto Ricans of voting age, who enjoy U.S. citizenship by birth. Thousands arrive each  year, fleeing the commonwealth’s ailing economy and rising crime. Many settle in central Florida, especially Orange County.

Overall, 3.1 million Puerto Ricans of voting age live on the mainland, but their presidential impact is muted because 43% live in the reliably Democratic states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

–Paul Overberg

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Can suburbs catch up with cities?

The post-recession growth of large cities is slowing as suburbs — and their contribution to the economy– finally recover, Census estimates released today show.

Over half of the cities with more than 250,000 people added fewer residents than the previous year, according to calculations by demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

And in 53 metro areas over 1 million people, central cities slipped to the same 1% growth rate as their suburbs, Frey said. In 2012, those same cities were growing 20% faster than their suburbs. From 2000-10, the reverse was true: Those suburbs grew at three times the rate of their cities.

The trend may signal that smaller cities and suburbs can once again draw people seeking work and affordable housing.

“I don’t think we’ll know for sure until we have a full-fledged economic resurgence,” Frey said.

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City-vs-suburbs

But the last decade may have given large cities a strong leg up in the competition. Frey found that almost half of large cities already have grown more since 2010 than they did in the previous decade.

One is San Jose, which reached 1.02 million and became the 10th city to top 1 million (not including Detroit, which fell under 1 million in the 1990s.) Riding Silicon Valley’s boom, San Jose has grown 6.6% since 2010.

That boom also boosted San Francisco by 1.3% last year, enough to step over Indianapolis to become the 13th-largest city at 852,459. The effects of the boom have spread across San Francisco Bay, where Oakland has grown almost 6% since 2010, reversing a 2% drop in the previous decade.

Other highlights:

— Denver vaulted Washington, Memphis and Boston to become 21st-largest, at 663,862, up more than  2% last year and 11% since 2010.

— Las Vegas, once again growing strongly, stepped over Louisville, as did Portland, Oregon, to reach 29th and 28th, respectively. Louisville has grown almost 11% since 2010, but Portland has grown 17% and Las Vegas, 28%.

— Almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans grew 1.4% to 384,320, topping Arlington, Texas for 50th. It has grown almost 12% since 2010 but remains 20% smaller than in 2000.

— Just 12 of the 100 largest cities lost population in the last year, and just seven have done so since 2010: Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Buffalo and Baton Rouge.

–Texas’ five largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Forth Worth — together added 125,000 people, or 1.5%, to reach 6.68 million.

–Paul Overberg

Counting everyone: An acid test for a democracy

Taking a census is not one of the more exciting jobs of a national government. But a census is nothing if not democratic, so it can be a canary in a coal mine, an interesting sentinel of deeper problems. Nations as diverse as Canada, Pakistan, Australia and the United States are struggling with the same thing: How to balance privacy while still collecting the data  needed for a fair distribution of spending and electoral representation.

The U.S. Census Bureau hopes to save billions of dollars on Census 2020 with a major overhaul, but it face congressional skepticism about the investment needed. April 1 marked the start of major tests — in Maricopa County, Ariz., and 20 counties around Savannah, Ga.  Among the tests: Internet response and the use of government records when people don’t fill out a form. They will shape the design of a massive infrastructure that must be ready to test by late 2018 so that it can go live in early 2020.

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Governments track people frequently through surveys and data from benefits programs. But only a census counts everyone (or tries to) at the same time and assigns them to an exact place. That seems simple but it’s very hard to do well on a national scale.

Some European nations have shifted away from taking a census in favor of assigning everyone an ID number and keeping a central register of personal data.  Don’t count on Americans embracing this idea.

Our distrust of government is just one reason that the U.S. census is so difficult to take — and so expensive. (Census 2010 cost $13 billion across a decade.) Information-sharing between agencies that is routine in some countries isn’t allowed here. Add mobility, continental sprawl, linguistic diversity and the fears of millions of immigrants living here illegally.

The United States isn’t alone:

— Citing privacy qualms, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper scrapped the detailed version of the 2011 Census for a voluntary survey. Response plunged from 94% to 67%. Citing unreliability, the government did not publish results on more than 1,000 localities where the rate fell below 50%. “One in 4 … towns disappeared from the statistical registry,” said Paul Jacobson, president of the Canadian Association for Business Economics at a Washington conference in March. Even Toronto was affected: “We’ve got hunks of the city that have disappeared from the statistical registry.” In a country that is diversifying rapidly, the gaps worry planners, researchers and businesses.

— Pakistan’s officials have finally agreed to undertake its 2008 census. It will be conducted next March with the help of the armed forces, a sign of the strife and factionalism that has delayed it. Its last census was taken in 1998, when it had 40 million fewer people.

— Australia takes a census every five years but  may skip 2016 to catch up on the cost and work of shifting to digital collection. It’s facing the same efficiency vs. privacy debate  as the USA and Canada.

Lest Americans get smug, the House of Representatives voted last year to make the American Community Survey voluntary. (The Senate did not.) ACS surveys 2.5 million households a year for the same information that the Census Bureau used to collect during the census every 10 years.

Congress, through various laws, has asked for every ACS question. Support for ACS runs deep through local governments and business groups, social scientists, civil rights and  and economic development groups.

But  distrust of government has found a home in Congress.

Retiring boomers are buying big houses?! Not really…

A misused statistic can spring from a simple mistake. But when the mistake confirms preconceptions or a seems unlikely it can take hold. If it does both, it can become an urban myth.

“Around one third of boomer retirees are upsizing into larger homes” fits the bill. Those boomers! forever self-indulgent and defiant of convention! Is this really happening? No.

A new study by Merrill Lynch and AgeWave surveyed 3,600 adults, a nationally representative sample that included 2,900 who were 50 or older. It found, among other things, that “pre-retirees who expect to downsize when they retire may be surprised to learn that half (49%) of retirees didn’t downsize in their last move. In fact, three in ten upsized into a larger home.” (Another 19% moved to a home of the same size.)

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See the difference? The report cites “retirees … in their last move.” Only retirees who actually moved are included. From there it’s a big jump to “a third of boomer retirees,” as on Tweet declared. Or “Why many retirees are upsizing into larger homes,” as one headline put it.

Census Bureau data for 2009-13 shows that only about 7% of people over 50 move in a given year. It’s not surprising. About 80% are homeowners, many with paid-off mortgages, longtime community ties and family nearby. Among people over 60 who own their homes, fully 45% haven’t moved in at least a decade, according to Census data analyzed through the University of Minnesota’s IPUMS archive.

The study itself carries facts that belie the idea that a third of retirees are upsizing:

— A third of surveyed retirees have no plans to move at all in retirement.

— Households with people over 55 account for just under half (47%) of home renovation spending, and about a third of retiree renovators cited adding an office, upgrading a kitchen or bathroom or “improving curb appeal.”

–Paul Overberg

 

People power keeps shifting to Texas

Since the 2015 term of the House of Representatives just began today, it seems early to be thinking about its balance of power in 2023. The political industry never sleeps, however, especially over the big reset that comes after each census, when seats are redistributed among the states.

Hints come from Census Bureau estimates of 2014 state populations released recently. If done today with those estimates, reapportionment would shift a seat from Minnesota to Texas, according to Election Data Services, a Manassas, Va., consulting firm. That’s not much change compared with this time a decade ago, when five states already would have had to swap seats. Thank the slow economic recovery, which has delayed retirements, immigration, marriages, job relocations and the population shifts that they create.

With warnings about tentativeness, Election Data Services also projected House changes by 2020 if each state were to keep growing at its 2010-14 rate. Gainers of a single seat: Ariz., Calif., Colo., Fla., N.C., and possibly Oregon or Virginia. Texas would gain three seats. Losers of a single seat: Ala., Ill., Mich., Minn., Ohio, Pa., R.I., W.Va. and possibly N.Y.

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Unlike much else in Washington, reapportionment can’t be lobbied, earmarked or filibustered. It’s in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2). It has only been kicked down the road once (in the 1920s). The current formula was set in a 1941 law that has been blessed by the Supreme Court.

Political impacts aside, reapportionment is a gauge of long-term shifts in where we the 2020 pattern seems to be emerging, even if details aren’t clear yet: Fewer shifted seats (9) than the last two reapportionments (12 each). Losses in the Northeast and Midwest, scattered gains elsewhere.

But the pattern is patchy. For example, New York and Massachusetts are growing faster than Sun Belt states like New Mexico, Alabama and Mississippi.

And who knows what the next five years will bring? A decade ago, population shifters like Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession and the fracking boom lay in the future. — Paul Overberg