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Q&A: Census Gives Northeast Ohio A Chance To Look In The Mirror

Sesame Street's the Count poses with attendees at a U.S. Census Bureau event in Cleveland. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Sesame Street's the Count poses with attendees at a U.S. Census Bureau event in Cleveland.

In the coming weeks, you will likely find a reminder in your mailbox to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census.

This year is the first time people can fill out the census online, but you can get a paper questionnaire if you prefer.

Such a count happens only every 10 years, so this will show the country and Northeast Ohio how things have changed in the last decade. ideastream’s Nick Castele and All Things Considered Host Tony Ganzer explored how this year’s census will work and what the results will mean for Northeast Ohio for the next 10 years.

First of all, what is the timeline for the census?

The U.S. Census Bureau is sending out reminders beginning March 12 with instructions on how to take the survey, according to a timeline from the agency. Respondents can complete the census online, by phone or on paper. By April 1, everyone should have received a reminder.

If you live in a college dorm, nursing home or other group setting, census workers will make a special effort to ensure you’re counted. They’re also doing the same for people who are homeless.

From May through July, you might see census workers going door to door to follow up with people who haven’t taken the survey yet.

We won’t see the results until next year, but you’ve asked some experts share what trends in Northeast Ohio they’re watching. What did you hear?

Obviously one big question to watch is whether the city of Cleveland continues its decades-long decline in population. Most recent estimates from the Census Bureau put the numbers around 383,000 to 387,000.

There may be some hope we’ll see the numbers heading in another direction, especially given development in Downtown, Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway, Tremont and University Circle.

But Mark Salling, a Cleveland State University who spends a lot of time with census numbers, doesn’t expect to see the city grow.

“Oh, I don’t think Cleveland’s population is going to increase, no,” he said. “The question is how much it’ll lose. And where, importantly, where in the city, which neighborhoods will continue to decline, which ones maybe will strengthen. We might see some growth in some neighborhoods, who knows?”

Many East Side neighborhoods were hit much harder by the foreclosure crisis. In the years since, they just haven’t seen the same sort of development as hotter real estate markets in the city.

One other force to watch in our region is whether suburban communities at the very edge of the Cleveland and Akron areas keep growing

What about demographics? Are there any projections on demographic changes we might see for our region in this census?

The 10-year census doesn’t give us information on poverty and income – that’s done by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, smaller-scale series of surveys done each year.

But we will see things like how many people are living in an area, whether they rent or own, their race and ethnicity and also their age.

The age question is one Kate Warren at the Center for Community Solutions is really watching. She’s interested in seeing where older adults are living in 2020.

“Suburban communities have a higher percentage of seniors, and some of that has to do with there being more housing opportunities for them there,” Warren said. “Cities just tend to be a little bit younger.”

The count will help us make decisions about services and where older adults would like to age, she said. It’s particularly important as the Baby Boomer generation continues moving into retirement.

Another big question is Congress. Is Ohio going to have less representation in Washington after this census?

Bad news for Ohio: the general belief is that we’re probably going to lose a Congressional seat. We’ve been losing those since the 1970s and are down to 16 now.

Another thing to consider is that with fewer members of Congress, Ohio will have fewer electoral votes too – and that could make us less of a prized possession in the 2024 presidential race.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.