2020 Census Shows Alaska's Population Growth Slower Than National Average

Apr 27, 2021

On a February afternoon, 5th Avenue between D and E Street in Anchorage gives a glimpse of how businesses are either adapting to or folding under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media

Alaska’s population grew by 3.3% over the past decade, according to numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau on April 26.

Despite the increase in population, the state’s growth rate was less than half of the national rate of 7.4% since 2010. That moved Alaska down one place in the ranking of all 50 states by population. Alaska is now officially the 48th most populated state, ahead of just Vermont and Wyoming.

Census counts are conducted once every 10 years, and are used to allocate federal funding and apportion congressional seats. The 2020 Census began in Alaska in January, but counting was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. There were also fears that politicization of the Census by the Trump administration would lead to an undercount of actual populations in states with high numbers of immigrants.

At a news conference on April 26, U.S. Census officials said that they were confident of the quality of the data, which almost all fell within 1% of pre-Census predictions.

“While no Census is perfect, we are confident that today’s 2020 Census results meet our high data quality standards. We would not be releasing them to you otherwise,” said Ron Jarmin, Ph.D., acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Alaska demographers say that the state’s count was slightly higher than what was predicted based on birth, death, and migration trends. Alaska has 733,391 residents according to the 2020 Census, compared to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s estimate of 728,903. State estimates show that Alaska’s population has dropped slightly since 2016.

While the numbers were anticipated eagerly by some states who stood to gain or lose congressional seats, Alaska was not one of them.

“For Alaska, we knew we weren’t gaining a seat, and you have to have one, so we knew we weren’t going to lose it,” said David Howell, a demographer with the state of Alaska.

In August, the U.S. Census Bureau will release more detailed information that will include age, sex, and race.