The FWD: Hindsight in 2020

The FWD #129

354 Words

Latest Census estimates show Virginia making progress— at least before 2020.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau published the first round of estimates from the 2019 American Community Survey.* The ACS, an annual sample survey of the country’s households, is one of the best resources we have to track changes in community housing and demographic profiles. This is the time of year I feel like Steve Martin when he sees new phonebooks.

The 2019 estimates will be especially helpful, as their timing allows researchers to establish a pre-pandemic baseline for the nation. Let’s take a look at how Virginia changed from 2018 to 2019:

  • POPULATION: The percent increase in households (+0.5%) exceeded that of total population (+0.2%), indicating a trend toward household formation.
  • INCOME: Median household income rose from $72,577 to $76,456.
  • POVERTY: Total poverty rate dropped from 10.7% to 9.9%.
  • HOMEOWNERSHIP: The homeownership rate saw no significant change—from 65.9% to 66.1%.
  • COST BURDEN: The percent of households experiencing housing cost burden decreased from 30.1% to 28.2%. Both owners (–1.9%) and renters (–2.5%) saw a drop in their burdens.
  • INEQUALITY: The Gini Index measure of inequality decreased slightly from from 0.4754 to 0.4690—a small march toward less inequality. (Perfect income equality is zero.)

These numbers show a Virginia that was making progress increasing economic and housing opportunity, with two very important caveats: 1) The full story requires disaggregation by race and income to see if these trends are at all dismantling entrenched patterns of racial inequality. And, of course, 2) All these estimates occurred prior to COVID-19.

While the eventual 2020 ACS release will tell a much fuller story, the Census Bureau has deployed an interim Household Pulse Survey to track how the coronavirus has impacted the economic circumstances of families and individuals. We’ll take a deeper dive into this survey in a future edition of The FWD.

* This initial release of 2019 ACS survey statistics only includes 1-year estimates, which cover states, large metropolitan areas, and localities with populations greater than 65,000. In December, the 2015-2019 5-year estimates will be released for smaller localities, towns, and census tracts.

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