By on 3.26.21 in Carolina Demographics, NC in Focus

On March 15, 2021, Stacey Carless, the Executive Director of the NC Counts Coalition, and I presented at the 2021 Rural Summit. We provided a detailed look into trends impacting North Carolina, an overview of the 2020 Census and redistricting, and highlighted how to use census and census-derived data in community planning. You can download a pdf of our presentation.

During the Q&A session, we were asked questions about the Census and demographic data. The summarized questions and answers follow:

How can I access and use demographic data for my community?

You can use the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quick Facts portal, the Bureau’s COVID-19 data dashboard, and COVID-19 dashboards from NC DHHS to understand disparities in the impact of COVID-19 to inform community outreach and engagement.

There are also variety of publicly available data sources that provide detailed demographic, economic, and other indicators on communities. This presentation (pdf) by Jessica Stanford, a demographic analyst at Carolina Demography, details the many resources available to access and explore data. You can also find many of these resources listed in this LibGuide created by our Director of Communications, Melody Kramer, for one of her classes at UNC-Greensboro.

When will 2020 Census data be released?

The current Census Bureau timeline has the following release dates:

  • April 30, 2021: State population totals released
  • September 30, 2021: Redistricting data released

Note: the Bureau has indicated that they could release data earlier than September 30, but the release would be in a harder-to-use, legacy file format.

What data will be available in the 2020 Census that might not be available elsewhere?

The 2020 Census will provide greater detail on how individuals identify than other available surveys. The census asked every individual their race, ethnicity, and ancestry. This allows smaller ancestry groups to be identified in the census than we can often identify in other surveys. For example, North Carolina has the largest population of persons of Montagnard heritage outside of Vietnam. The decennial census is the main opportunity for the Montagnard community to have an accurate count of its population.

Why might communities want to challenge the Census count?

Communities who have concerns that the 2020 Census did not accurately count their populations can challenge the count; historically, communities have challenged over perceived undercounts.

What are some of the tools that communities have to challenge census results? Is there an avenue for a locality to verify or correct their data?

The process for challenging census results is known as the Census Count Question Resolution (CQR). In the future, this site will also be updated with North Carolina-specific information on the challenge process, including future trainings.

Communities who are considering the challenge process should gather as much information as they can have about local housing units and group quarters. The State Demographer’s office at the Office of State Budget and Management can assist with local challenges:

What did we learn from the 2020 Census count that will help us better connect with and count rural residents in 2030? What can we do now to ensure the most accurate rural count in the future?

One of the biggest lessons learned across all communities, both urban and rural, was the importance of making sure people can both trust and understand the purpose of the decennial census. If residents are not aware of the census and how the data is used to help bring resources to their communities, they may be less likely to fill out the census form.

Outreach also underscored the growing importance of broadband and the impact of the digital divide. This was the first primarily online decennial census but it will not be the last one. Ensuring broadband access for all North Carolinians is imperative and initiatives like BAND-NC (Building a New Digital Economy in NC) will help us address the digital divide.

I’ve heard robust funding for other Census-driven surveys, like the American Community Survey, is needed to do them well, and adequate funding may be in danger. Is there anything we can do to help with advocating for their continuation?

Full and timely funding is vital for the Census Bureau to conduct the research and modernization processes needed to maintain the quality of its ongoing surveys, such as the American Community Survey. Unlike the census, which is conducted once a decade, the American Community Survey is ongoing, with new results released every year. It is the primary way that demographers, researchers, policy makers, and community members can understand the social, demographic, and economic makeup of their community and how that is changing over time.

The best ways to understand advocacy needs and get involved are to:

  • Visit and then click on “Join the Coalition” for NC-specific updates and sign-on actions
  • Visit The Census Project for updates and actions on the Census and the American Community Survey

Additional resources

COVID-19 Resources

Demographic Data

Economic & Labor Force Data

Health Data


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