RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences


U.S. Census 2020: Continuity and Change

Zhenchao Qian
Department of Sociology
Brown University

Trevon Logan
Department of Economics
The Ohio State University

The decennial population census in the United States has registered over two centuries of growth and transformation in America’s political, social, and economic life. It records the population size, composition, growth, and change. It documents patterns and trends of families and living arrangements, education, employment and earnings, and housing and residential patterns. It witnesses growing population diversity in ethnicity, race, and nativity. It captures multiple dimensions of inequality at individual and structural levels.

The 2010 Census revealed that income and wealth inequality increased in the first decade of the twenty first century, continuing the trend started in the 1970s and with the Great Recession furthering the divide that separates the rich from both the poor and the middle class (Levy 1987, Logan 2014). Meanwhile, young adults and women have completed more education than their parents and men, respectively, but are otherwise behind in employment, earnings, and economic mobility (Burkhauser and Larrimore 2014, DiPrete and Buchmann 2013). Continuing immigration, increasing shares of racial minorities, population aging, and the transformation of gender, family, and work further diversified the U.S. population. Growing diversity, reflective of tremendous group differences in opportunities and constraints, exacerbated inequality in living arrangements, health, wealth, and poverty (Bean et al. 2014, Qian 2014, Seltzer and Yahirun 2014).

What happened in the 2010s? Occupy Wall Street condemned growing inequality; Black Lives Matter underscored persistent racism, racial injustice, and mass incarceration; the #MeToo Movement raised awareness of sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace and beyond; the legalization of same-sex marriages advanced the rights of LGBTQ individuals; differences in the adoption of digital technology and other opportunities broadened the urban and rural divide; life expectancy declined; and the COVID-19 pandemic further exposed health disparities and social inequalities in the United States.

In this special issue of RSF, we aim to gather researchers from multiple social science disciplines to analyze data from the 2020 Census, American Community Survey, Current Population Survey or other (administrative or qualitative) sources and provide a deep understanding of the American population, its growth, structure, diversity, and inequality. Building on work from earlier censuses, surveys, and administrative data, published by the Russell Sage Foundation (Bean and Tienda 1987, Bianchi and Spain 1986, Farley 1995, Farley and Haaga 2005, Fischer and Hout 2006, Levy 1987, Lieberson and Waters 1988, Logan 2014, among others), this issue aims to document and analyze changes, continuity, and inequality in the United States, centering on the period between 2010 and 2020. It plans to cover topics on employment, earnings, wealth, and poverty; housing and residential mobility; families and living arrangements; and gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and immigration among all other topics, with a focus on whether these patterns follow the trends of past decades or change in other directions.

Below, we outline a number of topics we would like to include in this issue. The questions for each topic outlined below are illustrative. We anticipate that the papers will cover one or more questions for each topic or address questions that cut across several topics.

Please click here for a full description of the topics covered in this call for articles.

Anticipated Timeline

Prospective contributors should submit a CV and an abstract (up to two pages in length, single or double spaced) of their study along with up to two pages of supporting material (e.g., tables, figures, pictures, references that don’t fit on the proposal pages, etc.) no later than 5 PM EST on November 16, 2022 to:

NOTE that if you wish to submit an abstract and do not yet have an account with us, it can take up to 48 hours to get credentials, so please start your application at least two days before the deadline. All submissions must be original work that has not been previously published in part or in full. Only abstracts submitted to will be considered. Each paper will receive a $1,000 honorarium when the issue is published. All questions regarding this issue should be directed to Suzanne Nichols, Director of Publications, at and not to the email addresses of the editors of the issue.

A conference will take place at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City on June 9, 2023. The selected contributors will gather for a one-day workshop to present draft papers (due a month prior to the conference on 5/9/23) and receive feedback from the other contributors and editors. Travel costs, food, and lodging for one author per paper will be covered by the foundation. Papers will be circulated before the conference. After the conference, the authors will submit their revised drafts by 10/5/23. The papers will then be sent out to three additional scholars for formal peer review. Having received feedback from reviewers and the RSF board, authors will revise their papers by 3/21/24. The full and final issue will be published in the November of 2024. Papers will be published open access on the RSF website as well as in several digital repositories, including JSTOR and UPCC/Muse.

Please click here for a full description of the topics covered in this call for articles.