2020 census data is out. Here’s how Alaska has changed in the last 10 years.

a server brings water to a large table of diners on the top floor deck of a busy restaurant
Server Katie Grato brings water to a large table on a Wednesday evening in July at 49th State Brewing. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s racial and ethnic diversity increased over the last 10 years, according to new data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The share of Alaska’s population that identifies as a race or ethnicity other than solely white rose from less than a third of the population to more than 40%. The share of Alaska’s population that identifies as two or more races also increased, to 9.8% in 2020 from 6.9% in 2010. 

The share of the population that identifies as Hispanic grew to 6.8% from 5.5%. Black alone, grew to 3.4% from 2.8%. Asian alone, increased to 5.9% from 5.5%. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, rose to 1.7% from 1.1%. 

RELATED: Census figures show Mat-Su gained most new residents

The share of the population that identifies as Alaska Native and American Indian alone fell slightly, to 14.8% from 15%. But the share that identifies as Alaska Native and American Indian in combination with one or more other races grew, to 21.9% from 19.7%. This was part of a national trend of more people identifying as being both Alaska Native or American Indian as well as another race.

Map of Alaska showing the largest racial or ethnic group by region. Purple indicates the largest group is American Indian or Alaska Native alone (not Hispanic or Latino). Orange is white alone (not Hispanic or Latino). (Screenshot from census.gov)

Census officials have said the increase in people identifying with more than one race was affected by several factors, including how the questions were worded. The census also recorded up to six racial categories for each person depending on how they answered the question. Last time, the census would only record two answers. 

The share of the population that identifies as white alone fell to 57.5%, from 68.1%.

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Along with giving a snapshot of Alaska’s demographics, the population data will play an important role in state politics: It’ll be used to draw the district lines for Alaska’s Legislature. 

RELATED: Census figures show Mat-Su gained most new residents

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough led the state in population growth, with 18,086 more residents than in 2010. This may mean that one more House district will be located entirely in the borough. It currently has four entire districts and most of two others.

Parts of rural Alaska also had significant growth, including the North Slope Borough, which grew by nearly 15%, and Kusilvak Census Area, which grew by 12%.

But Anchorage lost 579 residents. It currently has 16 House districts and a third of another — it will have at least one fewer district located entirely in the municipality.

Southeast Alaska added several hundred residents, but its share of the state’s population shrank slightly. That may mean that Yakutat and potentially other nearby areas will be added to a Southeast House district. 

The Interior lost nearly 3,000 residents. That may mean at least one district that’s currently based in the region will be spread across a wider area. 

The census results were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. That means the Redistricting Board has a shorter-than-usual timeframe to draw district maps ahead of the next primary election, on Aug. 16, 2022.

Thursday’s release included the population, race and ethnicity numbers by geographic area, down to the smallest area tracked by the census. That’s known as a block — in an urban area, it’s typically a city block, but in rural areas, it can stretch hundreds of miles. Details about the age and sex composition of each area will be released later. 

Alaska ranked as the 11th-most-diverse state, as measured by the odds that any two people picked at random are of different races or ethnicities. By this measure, the Aleutians East Borough and Aleutians West Census Area are the two most diverse areas in the state.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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