Goldboro, North Carolina

NC Challenges of Census 2020 Numbers Get Mixed Results
Most Counties and Municipalities See Modest Increase; A Few Lose Population

Seven counties and 14 municipalities received corrections to their official 2020 Census count after the Census Bureau's review.

Author: Michael Cline and Marcia Evans

The events of 2020 will affect people for years to come. Not just because a worldwide pandemic broke out but also because the U.S. Census was conducted that year. Getting a correct population count during the census is critical. The once-a-decade count produces population figures that determine political representation and the annual distribution of $2.8 trillion in federal funding and over $2.7 billion in state funding.

Given the influence of Census figures, it’s no surprise that many governments in North Carolina participated in the post-census review opportunities offered by the U.S. Census Bureau.  

Post-Census Review Options & Outcomes

The Census Bureau offered two ways for jurisdictions to request a review of their 2020 counts. 

  1. The Count Question Review (CQR) process permitted certain government entities to request review of their population count based on inaccurate boundaries or inaccurately placed housing. 
  2. The Post-Census Group Quarter Review (PCGQR) was a new option, allowing jurisdictions to request review of group housing, particularly those that may have been affected by COVID-19 mitigation policies. This would include residences such as prisons, college dorms, and nursing homes.  

Neither process allowed for a recount of people in an area. They only provided for a review of existing data and procedures. For more, see "Six Things to Know Before You Challenge 2020 Census Results."

In late January, the Census Bureau announced it had completed the CQR and PCGQR. The agency had received and evaluated nearly 200 review requests.

2020 Census Corrections in North Carolina

Among the North Carolinian jurisdictions filing CQR requests, Apex came out a winner, adding 4,811 to its population after correcting the municipal boundaries in place as of January 1, 2020. Burgaw and Goldsboro received significant changes as well.  In both cases, prison facilities were erroneously reported in census blocks outside of the municipal boundaries, when in fact, the facilities were located within the municipal boundaries.  There were minor changes for other municipalities and counties, including a correction in the boundaries for Davidson and Forsyth Counties. All of these changes will result in new official 2020 Census counts.

In addition, the PCGQR submissions for the cities of Greenville and Wilson were accepted in whole or in part. Due to privacy restrictions, changes in the population of group quarters facilities will not be reported in the same manner as the CQR program. Instead, corrections are reported to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates branch so that they can update the 2020 population base for which the estimates are derived. These corrections do not change the official census count.


1Changes to Burgaw and Goldsboro were related to group quarters populations and thus no changes to housing units were made.
2Located in more than one county.   
3After review, three housing units previously reported in Polk County, NC were found to be located in South Carolina causing a correction to the state’s official 2020 population and housing counts. 
Government Unit Corrected Population Corrected Housing Units Difference in Population Difference in Housing Units
Bladen County 29,614 15,134 8 3
Columbus County 50,615 23,430 -8 -3
Davidson County 168,909 74,534 -21 -2
Forsyth County 382,611 170,178 21 2
Henderson County 116,282 56,435 1 1
Polk County 19,316 10,767 -12 -8
Rutherford County 64,451 32,448 7 4
Apex, Wake County 63,591 23,912 4,811 1,761
Burgaw1, Pender County 3,741 1,418 653 0
Columbus, Polk County 999 469 -61 -3
East Arcadia, Bladen County 421 199 3 1
Fair Bluff, Columbus County 707 416 -2 -1
Goldsboro1, Wayne County 34,250 16,213 593 0
Havelock, Craven County 16,688 6,590 67 45
Marion, McDowell County 7,735 3,151 18 9
Rocky Mount2 54,340 26,167 -1 -1
Saluda2 630 473 -1 -1
Sandyfield, Columbus County 433 176 3 0
Sims, Wilson County 307 145 32 16
Tabor City, Columbus County 3,787 1,234 6 2
Tryon, Polk County 1,546 952 -16 -8
North Carolina3 10,439,384 4,708,707 -4 -3


What Does it Mean for These Jurisdictions

The CQR process does not change the 2020 figures used for determining apportionment or redistricting. However, the new official population counts will impact federal funding formulas that rely on 2020 Census counts going forward. These new totals, in combination with the corrections through the PCGQR process will also become the baseline used for the annual population estimates produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and the State Demographer in the Office of State Budget and Management. These estimates are used in funding formulas and are the basis for other statistics. 

Better Data Means Preparing for the Next Census

The goal of every census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place. But, counting everyone is difficult even in the best of times. The U.S. Census Bureau provided limited avenues to make corrections. The best ways to ensure a complete and correct count happen before the census count occurs. 

The Census Bureau has already begun to prepare for the 2030 Census and it is a good time for local jurisdictions to begin to think about ways to prepare for and promote the next census – including making sure their municipal boundaries are regularly updated (including responding to the annual U.S. Census Bureau Boundary and Annexation Survey).  In addition, updating address lists and other geographic data files so that they are ready for the Local Update to Census Address (LUCA) and other programs offered by the U.S. Census Bureau leading up to the 2030 Census. 

For More Information

Explore North Carolina Census data on LINC.