2020 Census shows Alaska population growth slower than national average

A snowy city street in downtown Anchorage.
On a February afternoon, 5th Avenue between D and E Street in Anchorage gives a glimpse of how businesses are either adapting to or folding under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s population grew by 3.3% over the past decade, according to numbers released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Despite the increase in population, the state’s growth rate was less than half of the national rate of 7.4% since 2010.

That moved Alaska down one place in the ranking of all 50 states by population. Alaska is now officially the 48th most populated state, ahead of just Vermont and Wyoming. 

Census counts are conducted once every ten years and are used to allocate federal funding and to apportion congressional seats. 

The 2020 Census began in Alaska in January, but counting was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. There were also fears that politicization of the Census by the Trump administration would lead to an undercount of actual populations in states with high numbers of immigrants. 

At a Monday news conference, U.S. Census officials said they were confident of the quality of the data, which almost all fell within 1% of pre-Census predictions. 

“While no Census is perfect, we are confident that today’s 2020 Census results meet our high data quality standards. We would not be releasing them to you otherwise,” said Dr. Ron Jarmin, acting director of the Census Bureau.

Alaska demographers say the state’s count was slightly higher than what was predicted based on birth, death, and migration trends. Alaska has 733,391 residents according to the 2020 Census compared to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s estimate of 728,903.

State estimates show Alaska’s population has dropped slightly since 2016.

While the numbers were anticipated eagerly by some states who stood to gain or lose congressional seats, Alaska was not one of them.

“For Alaska, we knew we weren’t gaining a seat, and you have to have one, so we knew we weren’t going to lose it,” said David Howell, a demographer with the state of Alaska.

The Census Bureau will release more detailed information including age, sex and race in August.

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@gmail.com.

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