Census 2020 analysis: Lower numbers in Bloomington’s student neighborhoods point to possible undercounting

The 1.5-percent decrease in population reported for Bloomington by the US Census last week has generated local skepticism about the accuracy of the count.

The most recent estimates from the US Census had pegged the city’s population at around 86,000. But the 2020 numbers came in under 80,000, less even than the actual count in 2010.

The result was a big enough surprise that the city’s mayor, John Hamilton, issued a statement last Friday, the day after the results were released. The statement raises the possibility that the reported numbers are not accurate, because of an undercount of Indiana University students.

Hamilton’s statement points out: “[M]uch of the census data collection began the very week thousands of university students were directed to leave for the semester due to the COVID pandemic.”

If an undercount of university students contributed to Bloomington’s lower numbers, the undercount would likely be detectable in the geographic distribution of population losses in Bloomington, as counted by the US Census.

Based on a B Square plot of precinct population counts in 2020 compared to 2010, the idea that college students were undercounted has some statistical support.

It was predominantly areas on and near the Indiana University campus that showed lower counts in 2020 compared to 2010.

Continue reading “Census 2020 analysis: Lower numbers in Bloomington’s student neighborhoods point to possible undercounting”

Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year

The headline for this piece is unlikely to surprise anyone with just a scant knowledge of local Bloomington politics or national election trends.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Still, it’s worth adding some precision to some general ideas.  Bloomington’s quadrennial municipal elections—held the year before presidential contests—attract few voters. And those who do vote are older than average.

Based on turnout in past years, I think maybe 1,500 voters will participate in Bloomington’s Nov. 5 elections. That’s about 3 percent of city voters in the registered voter file provided by the Monroe County election supervisor’s office in early July.

Based on participation in past elections, more than half of those 1,500 voters will be older than 60. That’s almost three decades older than the average registered voter in Bloomington.

It’s unfair, of course, to compare an estimated maximum of 1,500 voters this November to the number of registered voters in all of Bloomington. That’s because elections will be held in just two of six city council districts this year. The other four district seats on the city council are uncontested. Also uncontested are races for all city-wide offices—mayor, city clerk and member-at-large city council seats.

Adjusting for just the roughly 16,000 registered voters in District 2 and District 3 combined, an estimated maximum turnout of 1,500 works out to around 9 percent. That doesn’t add up to a point of civic pride.

For District 2, my working estimate for maximum turnout is about 500 voters. I think if one of the two candidates gets more than 250 votes, that will be enough to win the seat. For District 3, I don’t think the turnout will be more than about 1,000 voters. I think if any of the three candidates gets more than 375 votes, that will be enough to win.

For both districts, I think the average age of voters this November will be older than 60.

After the jump, I’ll lay out the numbers behind those estimates. Continue reading “Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year”

92 shades of green for Indiana on St. Patrick’s Day

Two teams from Michigan are playing today in the finals of the Big 10 tournament for men’s college basketball. The championship game falls on St. Patrick’s Day this year,  which might give an edge to Michigan State, whose school colors are green and white.

The Cream and Crimson crashed out of the tournament in the first round. So instead of cheering for the Indiana University team, fans here in Bloomington are likely passing the time puzzling over St. Patrick’s Day numerical trivia. Continue reading “92 shades of green for Indiana on St. Patrick’s Day”