People & Places

Vermont’s 1st 2020 census results: Population growth lagged behind nation

Michael Harrington
Michael Harrington, acting commissioner of the Department of Labor, center, speaks during a press conference in Montpelier on Thursday, February 13, 2020, urging Vermonters to participate in the 2020 census. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Vermont’s population grew 2.8% between 2010 and 2020, ranking it 40th in the nation in population growth, according to the latest results from the 2020 U.S. Census

The state reported a population of 643,077 individuals, the second-smallest in the nation, census data shows. 

The Census released its first round of national results today from the 2020 decennial count, after the pandemic forced a delay in both the count and the release of its results. Across the country, the new data showed changes in the apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives and Electoral College seats based on state-level population data.

Because of its small size, Vermont was not at risk of losing any electoral seats. It already has the minimum possible number, with only one House member and the standard two Senate members.

But neighboring New York was one of seven states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, that will lose an Electoral College seat, Census officials said at a press conference Monday. Six states scattered throughout the South and West will gain seats. 

The change in apportionment reflects a broader shift in population throughout the country. The Northeast and Midwest gained residents at a much slower pace than the South and West. 

The United States population as a whole grew 7.4% between 2010 and 2020, the lowest growth rate since 1940. But the Northeast population grew only 4.1%, and Vermont’s only 2.8%.

Although the data today didn’t break down by age, previous years’ data shows that Vermont’s population is older than the rest of the nation, with about 20% of the state’s residents being 65 and older. Its fertility rate of 4.8% was also slightly lower than the U.S. average of 5%.

It’s unclear how the pandemic and its short-term migrations to deal with the lockdown could have affected the final tally. The 2020 Census count began in April 2020 and concluded in October 2020, so while the organization put out guidance that part-time residents should count themselves where they usually live, they could still be included in the data for the place where they were riding out the pandemic.

The estimated 572,000 deaths nationwide since the start of the pandemic are partly reflected in the data as well, but Vermont’s 244 deaths are unlikely to have a significant effect on its own population figures.

Pandemic-related issues forced Vermont to cancel some outreach initiatives and for the Census Bureau to delay the end of the count. The bureau won’t release data at a county or municipality level until August, leading Vermont legislators to put off their own reapportionment work. Every 10 years, political districts are redrawn as necessary to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s one-person, one-vote standard.

Erin Petenko

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