US Census Bureau releases 2020 population numbers

BY Kevin Krushenski

The Census Bureau released detailed state level data for redistricting. While the summary files require additional software to analyze and detailed “Place” (city and town) level data is not readily accessible, the Census Bureau released a variety of statistical stories at a more localized level that help paint a picture of the population of the United States and Tennessee.

The United States 7.4% population growth was the slowest decennial pace since the 1930s. As previously released, Tennessee’s population increased by 8.9% to 6,910,840 which placed Tennessee slightly behind the South as a region but ahead of the growth of the United States in aggregate. However, as the map below shows, the population declined in thirty counties ranging from a 0.2% decline in Jackson County to a 10.6% fall in Lake County. Nationwide, more than one-half of all US counties lost population between 2010 and 2020.

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Chart 1: Percent Change in Population for Tennessee Counties: 2010 to 2020

The growth in the number housing units from 2010 to 2020 was approximately one-half of the growth between 2000 and 2010. The Census Bureau noted that the decline was not unexpected since the housing boom of the mid-2000’s and subsequent crash toward the end of the decade resulted in a large number of vacant units which reduced demand during most of the decade. Not surprisingly, the growth in housing units at a county level largely followed the growth in population.

In general, the population in Tennessee has aged. The percentage of the total population over the age of 18 increased from 76.4% to 77.9% between 2010 to 2020. This aging is slightly slower than the United States in the aggregate which increased from 76.0% to the same 77.9%. In Tennessee, only 14 counties currently have an adult population below 2010’s 76.4% level. However, it should be noted that Tennessee’s under 18 population actually increased by 2% from 2010 to 2020 while the United States in aggregate lost 1.4% of those under 18 population. Additionally, twelve Tennessee counties lost total population but not their adult population. This would suggest a more rapid aging of the local area over the prior decade. The chart below shows the counties with the lowest percentage of population aged 18 and over scattered throughout the state; however, a large cluster occurs in the Nashville Metropolitan region.

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Chart 2: Percentage of Population Aged 18 and Over by County: 2020

The United States in general, including Tennessee, became more diverse in race and ethnicity. However, the Census Bureau stated that direct comparison to prior Census population data should be made with caution due to changes in Census design. Table 1 below compares the breakdown of population by race for the United States and Tennessee.


Table 1: Percentage of Total Population by Race: 2020


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More people live in Tennessee’s incorporated areas now than 20 years ago.

New population totals for Tennessee counties and cities has been one of the most anticipated numbers to come out of the 2020 Census. Which areas saw growth or decline, and how does that change compares to past Census totals?

The following tables calculated by the Tennessee State Data Center incorporates past Census data from 2000 and 2010 along with the new 2020 data. They show population totals, change and percentage change for the 20-year period. Click here to view their calculation of 2020 Census by place.TN state date center census calculations.

The Tennessee Municipal League will continue to provide updates and statistics as data becomes available.