The bad news of the 2020 census for Pennsylvania is deeper than the loss of a Congressional seat. For our economic future, it’s time to pass LACRA.
While the U.S. population gained only 7.4%, the second lowest rate since the first census in 1790, Pennsylvania’s population gain was even lower, a disappointing 2.4%. Yet, a deeper dive into the numbers reveals that 19 states plus D.C. gained at a higher rate than the U.S., and 14 of those grew at a rate greater than 10%.
Other states’ gains came at the expense of those, like Pennsylvania, that lost population or had low rates of population growth. But the breakdown of our population by age group is telling: PA ranks 49th (!) in the 19-25 age group; 32nd in the 35-54. We rank in the top 10 only in the age groups over 55 and over 65.
Pennsylvania is being outcompeted by other states for the age group talent that represents future economic growth. Contrast these population distributions with the fact that Pennsylvania also has many of the best higher education institutions in the world, attracting students from all over the country and the world, eager to graduate with degrees from their world-class business and STEM programs, like those from Penn State, Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, Penn, Lehigh, and so many more, including lesser known but respected programs at IUP, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg University. These graduates will be the ones creating the businesses of the 21st Century economy.
But, we are not keeping most or even many of these young people, Pennsylvania citizens or those from outside Pennsylvania, in Pennsylvania after graduation. This despite the fact that most of them find Pennsylvania’s mix of urban and outdoor attractions and activities appealing. WHY?
The answers are surely complicated but PA’s reputation certainly was not improved by becoming known as the most gerrymandered state in the union following the 2011 redistricting process. And that reputation is not helped by the PA legislature’s repeated failure to address issues of concern to young voters and young families. Among those concerns: internet connectivity and rural broadband, lead exposure in schools and drinking water, inequitable school funding.
Younger generations are informed and involved; they want to see their legislators working together to produce real change. Gerrymandering pushes our parties to the extremes, making collaboration and innovation almost impossible. Reform is needed to bring legislators back to the center so our General Assembly can pass bipartisan solutions delayed for years, sometimes decades.
Swift passage of redistricting reform would be one way of persuading young people that they have a real future as full citizens in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. LACRA, the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act, now has 84 house cosponsors for HB 22 and 25 senate cosponsors for SB 222. Passage now would make a big difference in our voting maps and our economic future.
Fair Districts PA invites business owners and CEOs to sign on to a letter in support of LACRA, the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act. Read the letter and more details here.