Population declines in most Southeast cities

2020 Census figures could bring changes to political landscape

By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Data from the 2020 Census shows that cities in Southeast Los Angeles County cities lost population in the last 10 years, a factor that could result in a loss of representation at the congressional and state legislative levels for the next decade.

The new figures released Aug. 13 also confirmed that Los Angeles County remains the largest county by population in the nation, crossing the 10-million threshold from 2010 to 2020, and the city of Los Angeles is the second most populous in the country.

The 2020 census reported that Los Angeles County recorded a growth of nearly 2% from 2010 and now has 10,014,009 people.

The city of Los Angeles added 106,126 residents in the last 10 years, for a total of 3.89 million. The growth represents a 2.8% increase from 2010.

Only New York City, with a population of 8.8 million, has a higher population than Los Angeles.

Despite overall increases in the city and county, most cities in the southeastern part of Los Angeles County saw their populations shrink over the last 10 years. The region’s loss of residents likely contributed to the loss of one congressional district in California, from 53 to 52, the first time in state history that California’s congressional representation will be reduced.

Redistricting Partners data consultant Paul Mitchell said recently released census figures may suffer a recount in one to two years, particularly in cities that may show population losses because there are precedents of children being undercounted by parents fearful of their undocumented status, or uncounted grandparents living in a backyard house.

Mitchell, who has drawn redistricting boundaries within the city of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and with several regional community college districts, recalled a similar miscount of children occurred in Santa Ana in 2010. An accurate recount was conducted two years later.

“One thing is undercounts in census that show less people or errors in counting. Post census enumerations in 2010 corrected wrong data, particularly in populations with high number of Hispanics [like Santa Ana],” Mitchell added.

Referring to Southeast Los Angeles cities with more residents, Mitchell said population shifts may reflect redistricting that affects community college districts, school boards and counties, and growth affects communities in different ways when nuances such as race, socioeconomic status and immigration are factored in.

“Let’s say in one district you have more Latinos or lower income population, and in the neighbor you have more white and wealthier population,” Mitchell said. “Redistricting has the potential of making” some districts weaker than others, even though the goal is to equalize the population count.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Downey had 114,355 residents in 2020, or 2,538 more people than the 111,772 counted 10 years ago.

Whittier witnessed a similar trend, increasing its populace from 85,331 in the 2010 decennial to 87,306 in 2020, and Bellflower had a population climb from 76,616 to 79,190.

Census data also reported that Montebello had an uptick in population, from 62,500 to 62,640.

But Huntington Park saw a decrease from 58,114 to 54,883 people in the same period, followed by Maywood  with  a loss from 27,395 to 25,138 residents, or 2,257 less. South Gate dropped from 94,396 to 92,726 people in the 10-year span.

Bell registered a drop from 35,477 residents to 33,559, while Commerce saw 445 less residents, sliding from 12,823 to 12,378.

Pico Rivera followed the receding trend with 62,942 residents in 2010 and 62,088 in 2020. The city of Lynwood also experienced a decrease in population from 69,772 to 67,265 in the 10-year period.

Paramount had a population decline from 54,098 to 53,733. Bell Gardens followed the pattern from 42,072 to 39,501 and Norwalk’s population ebbed from 105,549 to 102,773 in the last decade.

The 2020 decennial census also found that Alhambra, a city located in the West San Gabriel Valley, saw its population shrink from 83,089 to 82,868.

At the county level, 10 virtual public meetings have been scheduled this summer to include community input on plans to redraw new district boundaries that reflect changes in population based on the 2020 census.

The last two meetings will take place Aug. 19 at 7 p.m., and Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. All the gatherings had been set online to avert exposure and contagion to the aggressive Delta variant of COVID-19. Additional information is available at www.redistricting.lacounty.gov.

The decennial census also measured that California’s entire population rose 6.1% from 37,253,956 in 2010 to 39,538,223, adding 2.28 million people and making it the largest state in the nation.

Also, the 2020 census documented that Latinos are now the single largest ethnic group in California, with 39.4% compared to 37.6% tallied in 2010, surpassing whites non Hispanics. The previous census counted whites were the largest ethnic group in the state with a share of 40.1%, descending to 34.7% in 2020.

The number of Asians grew to 15.1 %, followed by a blend of Blacks and other ethnic groups with 10.8%.

Nearly two-thirds of the 2020 census forms were filled and returned online, leaving the rest for field workers and enumerators to canvass neighborhoods and knock on doors from August to October 2020 to conduct in-person interviews amid COVID-19 transmissions that delayed the April 1 count and threatened to upend the operation.

The 2020 Census was tainted with controversy as former president Donald Trump sought to add a citizenship question, a move many congressional leaders, local officials and activists decried as a systemic attempt to exclude immigrants, particularly the undocumented.

Nicholas Jones, U.S. Census senior advisor of race and ethnic research outreach in the population division, said that the bureau is not surprised by the findings that put a blend of multi-ethnic groups as the second largest national population behind whites, with data mainly collected from Hispanics since 2015 due to its two-part question.

“One of the ways in which we look at the data, particularly in our cross data format refers to the Hispanic origin results, and they are comparable with those we’ve seen in the past, in terms of trends,” Jones said.

Jones added that the decennial questionnaire has consistently been modified to address the ethnic and social changes of the population every 10 years, and the Census Bureau will continue to tweak and adapt visual and technological tools to capture and provide data as it moves forward.

As the figures and data settle in, and new district lines are drawn to receive federal and local resources for transportation, infrastructural projects, housing and other services, Mitchell said redistricting is an abstract exercise with deeper consequences.

“When population is counted in a district, it usually means the district grows,” Mitchell said. “In [Southeast Los Angeles] when it grows, it is bad for the region. Where is it going to grow?”