The Harold Hodgkinson Lecture 2022: Census 2020, Racial Demographic Trends, and Narratives of Interpretation



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The Hodgkinson Lecture was established in 2017 in honor of Harold “Bud” Hodgkinson, renowned lecturer, writer, and analyst of demographics and education. The fourth Hodgkinson Lecture was delivered on June 15, 2022, by Dr. Dowell Myers, a specialist in urban growth and societal change, with expertise as a planner and urban demographer. This publication is an edited version of Dr. Myers’s talk, titled “Census 2020, Racial Demographic Trends, and Narratives of Interpretation,” and includes highlights of the ensuing discussion.

Myers’s lecture covered three broad questions: What are the key trends in racial demographics? What were the major challenges in conducting the 2020 census? And, what are the key narratives that have emerged in public discourse about all this? Myers noted that the census, which is done every ten years, is a cornerstone of our democracy because it is how political power is apportioned in the US, and this means that the census is politicized. It is also important statistically, as it provides information about demographic changes that happen over time. The 2020 census faced multiple challenges: it took place during the COVID-19 pandemic; it was conducted primarily via the Internet for the first time; and a proposed controversial new question about immigration status led to a suppression of Hispanic participation, even though the question was not part of the census. Myers’s talk delved into the complexity behind the narrative of White-majority decline that emerged after the census.

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