Census Day is April 1, and that’s no joke. The 2020 Census, like the 23 counts before it, is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. All residents should receive a letter in the mail in mid-March, inviting them to participate in the census, either by mail or on-line. Laggards will receive another missive, and finally a personal visit from a Census Bureau enumerator. Data from the 2020 Census will be used to determine how much funding might be available to localities and states for transportation, education, human services, and other federal programs. Post-census data also is used to determine voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and in local jurisdictions.
You don’t need census data to know that our community is changing demographically. Fairfax County’s 2019 Demographics Report, released in December, highlights the most recent data available in advance of the 2020 Census. We know that we are getting older, richer, and more diverse. The county’s estimated population is 1,167,000, and grew by 1.2 percent last year, adding only about 14,000 residents. Fairfax County’s population growth is slowing down, which mirrors national trends with fewer births and more deaths nationwide, even as the population continues to increase. With the earliest baby boomers reaching retirement age now, one in seven residents is age 65 or older, a ratio that will increase to one in five by 2035. An estimated 13.4 percent of Fairfax County residents now are 65 or older, a number projected to grow to 17.7 percent in 2035. The Silver Tsunami that was predicted several years ago is now upon us!
While we are getting older, we also are becoming more ethnically diverse, and wealthier. The number of Caucasian residents is decreasing while the county’s Asian and Hispanic populations are increasing. In 2019, the county’s population was 61.1 percent white, down eight percent compared to the 2000 Census. The African-American population remains steady at 9.7 percent, but the Asian/Pacific Islander population is 19.3 percent, and Hispanic ethnicity stands at 16.4 percent. Our wealth makes Fairfax County the seventh richest county in the nation, based on median household income of $122,277. Slightly more than 25 percent of households make $200,000 or more, and Fairfax County also is one of the top five counties nationwide with the highest household incomes for people 65 or older.
This all is encouraging news, of course, but there are significant consequences for other portions of our community. Fairfax County’s poverty rate is 6.2 percent, lower than the state rate of 10.7 percent and the national figure of 11.8 percent, but translates into the unhappy statistic that 7.8 percent of children under 18 and 5.6 percent of people 65 and older live below the poverty level in Fairfax County.
That’s where the 2020 Census and the One Fairfax policy can make a difference. An accurate count will help the Board of Supervisors target those areas that might benefit from extra resources or an additional helping hand, providing an opportunity for everyone to succeed. It’s not an “us vs. them,” but rather working together, that will achieve sustainable results. It will take time and effort, but success is well worth it, don’t you think?
Next week: Some of the policing challenges in an older, richer, and more diverse community. Another interesting change.