CINCINNATI — Greater Cincinnati’s population increased 5.6% in the last 10 years to more than 2.25 million, according to 2020 Census data released Thursday.
That’s faster growth than Akron, Cleveland and Dayton but slower than Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville.
The 2020 Census, which represents a snapshot of the U.S. population as of April 1, 2020, takes on added importance this year.
That’s because the official count at the end of each decade is used to apportion seats in Congress, government funding and rank regional rivals. Growing cities often tout their population gains in marketing campaigns, while shrinking towns use the numbers as a call to action.
To that end, Cincinnati has some positive numbers to share. It’s the 30th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area, ranking ahead of Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Nashville, all cities against which it competes for jobs and corporate investments. Also, for the first time in 70 years, it has a growing urban core. Census data show the city of Cincinnati grew 4.2%, to 309,317, since 2010.
But Greater Cincinnati lags some of its regional peers in the number of fast-growing counties. Only Boone and Warren counties had growth rates above 10% since 2010. The Indianapolis metro has five such counties, while Columbus has three.
While the numbers are important for economic development reasons, they are a crucial ingredient for state redistricting committees, which revise legislative districts at the state and federal level every 10 years.
It will be a hotly contested process in Ohio this year because the Buckeye State will lose one Congressional seat and Republicans need only five seats nationwide to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The redistricting challenge is greater this year because the Census data is being released much later than in prior years, said Michael Finney, chief financial officer of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service at Ohio University.
It has a state contract to create data maps that the Ohio Redistricting Commission uses to compare how boundary changes impact the number of voters in every legislative district. The data provides block-level head counts that include age and race information.
Finney said it will take about two weeks for Ohio University to finalize its data maps. Members of the redistricting commission will combine that data with voting records and other information to decide which boundaries the political boundaries should be.
“This year, given the fact that the release of the data is so late, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the map makers,” Finney said, “to make their maps and meet the deadlines that are in the Ohio constitution.”
The redistricting commission faces a Sept. 1 deadline to draw new districts for Ohio politicians, while the deadline for Congressional districts is Sept. 30.
The Census Bureau has been criticized for delays and questioned about the accuracy of the 2020 Census. Last week, the bureau announced it would delay the release of its American Community Survey, which includes more information about poverty, housing and demographics, because it didn’t have big enough samples in all geographies.
But Finney said the data released Thursday has everything Ohio University needs to complete its data maps.
“I’m not concerned about the accuracy,” Finney said. “It’s the data that we use every 10 years. It is the 100% count from the Census Bureau … This is the data that the Ohio constitution requires.”