Weldon Cooper Center: "be very cautious using any 2020 Census race data."

"Add in the impact of the Census Bureau's privacy algorithm," says Lombard, "and I would not try comparing and be very cautious using any 2020 race data."

Well, we've got new 2020 Census numbers for Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and our total populations have gone up since the 2010 Census, but for anyone hoping to understand how the racial composition of our area has changed (like The DTM had hoped) in the last decade by comparing 2020 race and ethnicity numbers and percentages with their 2010 numbers, The Weldon Cooper Center has some bad news.

"The changes in Albemarle and Charlottesville's racial composition are too slight to know if change actually occurred," says Hamilton Lombard, a demographer with the Weldon Cooper Center, "whether people changed their responses, if the Census categorized them differently or if the Bureau's privacy algorithm is just distorting the numbers."

Though the Weldon Cooper Center put both the 2010 and 2020 data in their population charts, Lombard said he would not recommend reading too much into the change in race numbers between the two censuses.

"If there was a large change, such as the share identifying as Black alone or in combination increasing over 5 percent it might be meaningful," he says. "But the Census Bureau made some significant changes in how they collected and published race data in 2020."

For instance, as Lombard points out, the number of Hispanics or Latinos reporting more than one race increased from 3 million to 20.3 million, a 560 percent change, but that's from the Census changing how it publishes data rather than an actual demographic change. In addition, the Some Other Race category saw most of its growth from the Census changing how it processes write-in data rather than organic change. For example, if a person checked the White box and Hispanic in 2010 he/she would be tabulated as White Hispanic, but in 2020 they would be asked to also write in their origin under White, so if they wrote in a Hispanic origin, such as Spanish or Mexican, then they would be tabulated as Some Other Race, Hispanic rather than White Hispanic.

"Add in the impact of the Census Bureau's privacy algorithm," says Lombard, "and I would not try comparing and be very cautious using any 2020 race data."

The two changes in population that should be most accurate are changes in the Asian and Hispanic populations, says Lombard, because they were fairly large and the Bureau didn't make substantial changes to the two categories, at least for our local populations. Indeed, the Asian population went from 2,633 in 2010 to 7,921 in 2020 in the County and from 3,330 in 2010 to 5,064 in 2020 in the City. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population went from 5,417 in 2010 to 8,453 in 2020 in the County, and from 2,223 in 2010 to 3,207 in 2020 in the City.

Basically, there's really no way to accurately tell how all the current 2020 race data compare to 2010. That seems like a pretty big failure, no?

"Yes, it is one of many significant problems with the 2020 Census in my opinion," says Lombard. "The only 2020 data that appears to be good quality so far is the number of housing units."