2020 Census Shows Growth on the KP

The mostly white population became slightly more diverse over the last decade.


As the population of the Key Peninsula has grown, so have complaints of terrible traffic and new construction. But the rate of increase over the last 10 years is comparable to that of the country, and only about half that of Pierce County as a whole.

Results from the 2020 decennial census data used for legislative redistricting were released in August. The population with breakdown by race and status of Hispanic or non-Hispanic provides a window into who lives on the peninsula and what has changed over the last decade.

The overall population of the KP grew 8% from 16,966 in 2010 to 18,318 in 2020. By comparison, the population of the United States grew 7.4%, Washington state 14.6%, and Pierce County 15.8%.

The Key Peninsula is more diverse than it was 10 years ago but is still whiter than the country or the county overall.

In 2010, the population was nearly 90% white. Last year that number fell to 83%, comparable to rural states like Idaho, Iowa and Wyoming. The population of the U.S. is 62.7% white; Pierce County is 64.6%.

Of the non-white population on the Key Peninsula, 11% are two or more races. For those identifying as single race, 314 (1.7%) are Asian, 227 (1.2%) are American Indian or Alaska Native, 159 (0.9%) are Black, 78 (0.4%) are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Three hundred and twenty-six individuals (1.8%) self-identify as “other.”

The Hispanic population on the KP is 1,221 (6.1%). Hispanics make up 18.6% of the population of the country, 13.1% of Washington state and 12.1% of Pierce County. The Hispanic population has only been counted on the census since 1970.

Hispanic origin refers to the heritage, nationality, lineage or country of birth of the person or family before arriving in the U.S. People identifying as Hispanic may be of any race. Latino was added to the Census in 2000 as an ethnicity.

The constitution mandates that the population be counted every 10 years. The results affect the number of representatives in Congress and how federal, state and local funds are allocated for programs and services including hospitals, fire departments, transportation systems, and school lunch programs.

The race data collected by the Census follows U.S. Office of Management and Budget guidelines and is based on self-identification. People may choose to report more than one race group. People of any race may be of any ethnic origin. According to the Census website, “The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups.”

A 1995 memo from the OMB reviewed why statistics on race and ethnicity are collected. “Such data have been used to study changes in the social, demographic, health, and economic characteristics of various groups in our population. Federal data collections, through censuses, surveys, and administrative records, have provided an historical record of the nation’s population diversity and its changing social attitudes and policy concerns. Since the 1960s, data on race and ethnicity have been used extensively in civil rights monitoring and enforcement covering areas such as employment, voting rights, housing and mortgage lending, health care services and educational opportunities. These legislatively-based priorities created the need among federal agencies for compatible, nonduplicative data for the specific population groups that historically had suffered discrimination and differential treatment on the basis of their race or ethnicity.”

Race and ethnicity are social constructs and not based on science, according to the National Geographic Society. The concept of race defines people by physical characteristics or genetic ancestry but has no basis in biology. In other words, at a genetic level, humans are far more alike than different from each other