by Stephen G. Katsinas, Noel E. Keeney, Emily Jacobs, and Hunter Whann
The Educational Policy Center at the University of Alabama issued the first of several reports on the Alabama Black Belt this week. The first report was on the impact of the declining population, as measured by the U. S. Census, in the Alabama Black Belt on the State of Alabama.
Will Alabama lose its seventh congressional seat after the 2020 Census? In this issue brief, the first in a series of eight The University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center will publish on demographic, economic, and education issues, challenges, concerns, and options facing the Black Belt, we argue that if our state loses a seat, it will be the direct result of stagnant or declining population in Alabama’s 24 Black Belt counties. The challenges of rural life in Alabama, and indeed rural America, are driving away its most valuable resource: its people. Economics, lower access to information-age broadband and healthcare, as well as the inability of 19th century systems of governance and taxation frozen in Alabama’s antiquated, race-based 1901 Jim Crow state constitution are key forces underlying this decades-long trend.
This is the policy context for the critically important 2020 Census, which cannot be divorced from any discussion of the Black Belt’s population decline. Losing a congressional seat will jeopardize billions in federal investment dollars over the next decade. This is why Alabama policymakers on a bipartisan basis are working tirelessly to insure a full and complete count for the Census.
Chart 2 isolates just the 24 Black Belt counties. It reveals the region lost over 40,000 residents from 1998 to 2018. The decline was from 730,000 in 1998 to less than 690,000 in 2018. Sadly, this trend may continue in for the foreseeable future, as persistent issues such as hospital closures and lack of broadband access drive people away. The sudden requirement for remote learning due to the pandemic exposed crevasses in available broadband services that echo the gulf in electricity access in the 1930s between the rural have-nots and an urban America that had been wired for nearly two generations. Here is link to an interactive map of the counties listed in various Black Belt reports: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/PAdLA/2/.
The report shows the importance of Greene County residents participating in the 2020 Census to raise the count. You can post your information by calling 844-330-2020 or contacting http://www.my2020Census.gov on your computer, tablet or smartphone.