Econ 919 — Gearing up for 2030
It will be another eight years before the U.S. Census Bureau does its next full count of the country's population.
Officials are still making sense of data from the 2020 census — used to divvy up funding for federal programs and set legislative districts. Data from the 2020 census showed population growth on the Kenai Peninsula amid a continued out-migration of young Alaskans, statewide.
Tim Dillon is executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and coordinated the 2020 census for the Kenai Peninsula. Last month, he and other Alaska coordinators met with U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Santos to talk about how things went this time around and what they can do better in 2030.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tim Dillon: We had pretty accurate numbers, but we could have done better.
Perfect example: P.O. boxes. Here in Alaska, a bulk of everybody has a P.O. box. It's not their street address.
Well, the federal government doesn't recognize P.O. boxes [in the census], even though the United States Post Office is part of the government. So to be able to talk them through that and understand how to make all that work, it was important for us. Because if they're going to try and get things right, those are the kinds of things they’re going to need to do.
KDLL: To your point about the P.O. boxes, do you think that people in more rural parts of Alaska and of the Kenai Peninsula were under-counted more so than in Alaska's urban areas?
TD: Probably, yes. And the interesting part is not only the people that have P.O. boxes.
Let's just talk about Seldovia for a minute. There are pieces of property that are platted that are on the side of a cliff, you know, it doesn't make any sense. So where houses are, and where residents and offices and things are, you need to have a local person involved and they need to be able to go from house to house — ’Yeah, there's a house, just go past Jimmy's house, you make a right hand turn after the blue truck, and Anita is right over there on the left,’ you know? That’s that's the way things go.
KDLL: Is there anything that you learned about the Kenai Peninsula from this data that surprised you?
TD: I was surprised there were more people that were gun-shy about giving out their information than I ever thought. This was an opportunity for me to hear and see that first hand.
KDLL: I think the most obvious example of census data being used for configuring our local setup here is that we of course saw a lot of districts changing in these 2022 maps. Walk me through some other ways that we've already been using this data from the 2020 census.
TD: There's a good portion of it that is tied back into funding for some of your meal programs — whether it be at the school district, whether it be at the senior meals programs. Just about every unincorporated and incorporated community has some type of a meal program for their seniors. And it's all based on these numbers.
So we're seeing some where some people have gone up and some people have gone down, or some of the people didn't follow through and fill out some of the forms they needed to to fill out. And those folks, we're trying to assist them and trying to identify some other dollars, because they still have people coming that need to eat.
It's an economic driver. Right from the get-go, we told people that monies that are available and things are based on a census. So we need to make sure it's accurate.