For the first time in history, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that California will lose a seat in Congress.
The census marks California’s apportionment population — the resident population combined with overseas U.S. military and federal civilian employees — at 39,576,757, preserving California’s leading seat status but also reducing it to 52 seats. Campus political science professor Gabriel Lenz said the census results mean that California would have less political power in Congress.
“California is a leader of progressive politics in the nation,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Derek Imai. “For us to lose that political representation in the House is something that’s huge.”
California’s census results can have “long-term consequences” beyond political representation, according to Imai. It can impact state budgets, public transportation funding and federal financial aid programs.
Lenz attributed the results to factors such as lower population growth compared to other states and housing construction limits that have led to high housing prices. However, California Republican Party chair Jessica Millan Patterson pointed to Democrat policies.
“It is not surprising that California would lose a seat in Congress for the first time in state history because years of failed Democrat policies have taken our state backward,” Patterson said in a CAGOP press release Monday. “Californians will have one less voice to speak for us in Washington, which proves yet again that it’s time for change and real leadership.”
According to the Census Bureau, California saw a 6.1% population increase, down from the 10% growth seen in the 2010 census. While COVID-19 may have complicated the census process, Lenz noted that households were invited to complete the census in March, so COVID-19 likely did not have a large impact on California’s reported population.
Yet, Imai suggested that COVID-19 and the subsequent political climate might have affected census counts in other ways.
“The political volatility coupled with just how crazy enumeration was with COVID-19. … I think that really reflected in huge undercounts,” Imai said. “It breaks my heart that California may be one of these states that are suffering from these huge undercounts.”
Imai added that inclusivity is an issue in census questions, which can contribute to the public’s attitude toward participating in it.
In particular, restrictive racial categories and politically charged questions can be problematic toward marginalized communities that the census is trying to document.
“The census, in general, can do a better job at being inclusive to other communities,” Imai said. “It will help the people trust the census a little bit more because they feel like they are seen.”
California’s loss of a seat will remain for the next 10 years until the upcoming 2030 census. Lenz suggested that decreasing barriers to housing constructions for middle-income and higher-income housing around transportation hubs can help California have the population numbers necessary to gain seats in the next census.