He was punching data into a handheld device.
Not knowing who he was, or what he was about, but realizing he was somebody OFFICIAL, I asked him his mission. He identified himself--actually holding up his census taker ID, around his NECK--and said he was entering data about the locations of houses in preparation for the next census.
GOOD IDEA. There are so many formerly-occupied houses which are now VACANT LOTS, I can see where it might get confusing for the Census Bureau. Without going through and physically checking the locations of homes, they could waste a lot of effort looking for something which is no longer there. Of course, by the time the census is actually taken, MANY more buildings will be demolished. So I hope this won't be the only "go through."
A friend of mine who cares a lot about neighborhood demographics recently made a stunning prediction about the next census: the final data will show North Minneapolis is no longer a majority black neighborhood.
I disagreed with my contact. I was all, like, NO WAY. Yes, the foreclosure crisis has deeply impacted our neighborhood with many people moving out, and new people moving in, but I figure this just produces the same overall percentages of various ethnicities, not any dramatic change. The sheer drop in the number of PEOPLE living in North Minneapolis, now THAT will be interesting, I say.
My friend was insistent, and probably more insistent after drinking half a bottle of very good wine: LOOK AROUND, said the friend, start calculating.
I am always willing to consider data contrary to my own opinion, so I contemplated this counterpoint. I told my friend about the time, quite recently, I boarded a No. 22 bus and started counting heads, doing an informal census of my own. My "straw poll bus census" produced an even split between white and black on that particular day, riding that particular bus, which was VERY ODD FOR THAT BUS ROUTE. In fact, that's the reason I started counting heads in the first place: I wanted data to back up my gut-level perception that something wasn't the same as usual on that bus, that particular morning.
Not wanting to be disagreeable with my friend--especially over a bottle of good wine--I said I'd be more likely to believe this kind of result with the upcoming census: North Minneapolis might be no longer "majority black," but certainly not "majority white." There are huge pockets of Hmong families, the families often three generations with many children. Furthermore, there are many people who will be declaring their biracial heritage, especially in the wake of the election of President Obama. One should not parse individual human beings: biracial is its own category.
I would be more likely to believe, in the next census, North Minneapolis might be in a state of "diverse plurality" with white, black, Asian, biracial, and a relatively small number of other races, nobody holding a majority. I would also be more likely to believe a situation of "majority black, but with deep losses in overall numbers."
The thing is, though, NOBODY REALLY KNOWS. Riding a bus doesn't tell you. Thinking up all the people you know and where they live doesn't tell you. Looking at real estate data doesn't tell you, though what's happening with real estate appears to be the reason things might change so much, so fast.
Really, the only thing that can tell you with a veneer of official accuracy is the United States census, which is why we have a census in the first place.
But can I find information to completely rebut my friend's stunning prediction? No, I can't. And that's why the question fascinates me, because it is deeply important and yet NOBODY KNOWS. So I thought I'd just throw the question out there, for consideration.
One thing is for sure: the next census will show dramatic changes in our North Minneapolis neighborhoods produced by the foreclosure crisis. But the question is: WHAT will those dramatic changes be?