2020 Census Tracts and Demographics

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Added on December 15, 2021

As most of you are aware, the 2020 U.S. Census occurred two years ago. When preparing for the census, the Census Bureau redefines Census Tract boundaries based upon the estimated population of an area. After the census, these new Census Tract boundaries are updated with the demographic profile of the recorded data for that area. Typically the world moves forward with the census tract changes early in the year following the census, however, the CFPB/FFIEC typically lags by a year for HMDA/CRA purposes; they require the new data and boundaries beginning two years after the census (i.e. 2022) for purposes of data collection and submission. RATA Associates has been in the HMDA/CRA arena for over 30 years now and has been through this process twice already (1990 > 2000 and 2000 > 2010). We have outlined below how the process works and how we handle the transition for all clients.

Tract Boundaries

Census Tracts are small semi-permanent statistical subdivisions of counties and are outlined to have approximately 4,000 people per Census Tract. However, depending on the area, there can be 1,000 to 8,000 people in any given Census Tract based upon population density. When a census is about to be performed, the Census Bureau will look at all existing Census Tracts and then, based upon estimated population, either leave the tracts as is, combine tracts to form fewer tracts, or split tracts into 2 or more pieces to try and obtain the 4,000 people-per-tract number. From a historical perspective, in the 2000 census, there were 68,065 Census Tracts, by 2010 this had grown to 75,665 Census Tracts and now in 2020 we have 85,528 Census Tracts.


As mentioned previously, the world moves forward with the new Census Tracts in the year following the census. Our internal geocoders have been providing the new 2020 Census Tracts since early this year and we have been converting those values back to the 2010 geography using a spatial join against digital mapping data using the latitude and longitude assigned by the geocoding process. Once we begin processing 2022 data, the spatial joins will no longer be necessary and will fall from practice, meaning that the 2020 geography will be returned with all geocoding requests beginning in 2022.


The Census Bureau released the digital mapping data for the 2020 geography in March of 2021. We have undertaken the process of converting this data to work with both Comply and our geocoding system as is necessary for 2022 geocoding. These mapping Shapefiles are an industry-standard format used to both create digital maps within the Comply software and provide spatial join operations within the geocoding environment when necessary. We will be releasing this mapping data to Comply users by month's end following our quality assurance testing.


The single point of contention with transitioning from the 2010 to 2020 geography is the demographic data. The CFPB/FFIEC have very specific processes that manipulate the Census Bureau's multiple datasets to form the HMDA/CRA-specific data used for each regulation. Since we cannot emulate their process, we cannot bring the related new demographic data online until the FFIEC officially releases the 2022 Census and Demographic Data. In the interim we will be migrating the demographic data from 2021 forward to 2022. We actually do this every year, in that we copy forward the current year's demographic to the new year, and then update that data in July when the new data is available. While the data will not be 100% accurate to the 2022 numbers, it is a relatively close approximation and the best that can be done until the FFIEC officially releases the 2022 data. Once we receive the 2022 data following release, we can put it into operation with 2-3 business days.


We have performed all the above mentioned tasks and processes in both the 2004 and 2012 transitions and are well disciplined in making sure our geocode results meet the high standard that we place upon them. It is always RATA's effort to be accurate with our geocoding processes, which is why we employ 10 different geocoders leveraged in a proprietary manner to obtain the very highest quality results. This transition from 2021 to 2022 will be a business as usual transition for us and beginning January 1st 2022, any records for the 2022 reporting year will get 2020 geography while those for prior years will continue to get their appropriate geography as well.





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