Despite a lot of new housing being built in East Lansing in the last decade, the 2020 U.S. Census data shows that the City’s population fell by about 1.7 percent since the 2010 census, dropping from 48,579 down to 47,741, according to reporting from Michael Wilkinson at The Bridge.
And that’s bad news for the City of East Lansing, which had been hoping to crest back over 50,000, a figure that would make the City eligible for more federal funding of various types.
As ELi reported last year, the official population of East Lansing peaked in 1980 at 51,392 before falling to 50,677 in 1990. It fell further to 46,555 in 2000, before growing again to 48,579 in 2010.
The shut-down of MSU’s campus in March 2020 almost certainly impacted the latest census count, which officially occurred in April 2020. While the Census Bureau instructed students to be counted where they would be living if school was in normal session, after MSU urged students to leave East Lansing to attend school remotely from their permanent addresses, many students were likely counted at their family’s residences.
In 2019, the City convened a special group to try to make sure everyone who could be counted would be, but the pandemic disrupted that work.
ELi has reached out to the City’s Communications Department for comment but has not yet received a response.
Update, Aug. 17, 2021: After this article was published, City Manager George Lahanas sent the following statement: “While we lost a minor amount of residents based on our Census numbers, we do believe we were undercounted. Counting students in a university community during normal times is difficult and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly made it more challenging. City of East Lansing staff are exploring what recourse, if any, the City may have going forward. We do appreciate the tremendous efforts of the staff and volunteers of the East Lansing Census 2020 Complete Count Committee, who did a remarkable job despite the impacts of a global pandemic.”