PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Brand-new census data shows the population grew in nearly every Rhode Island municipality between 2010 and 2020, with Block Island and the state’s smallest city leading the way.

A Target 12 analysis of 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday shows population increases in 36 of the state’s 39 cities and towns. Three municipalities — Bristol, Foster and Narragansett — saw a decrease in total residents.

For municipalities with at least 5,000 residents, Central Falls' population grew the most, increasing 16.6% from 2010 to 22,583 people in 2020. The other communities with the highest population growth were East Greenwich, Cumberland, Providence and Lincoln.

Apart from the declines in Bristol, Foster and Narragansett, the communities with the smallest population growth included Warwick (0.2%), East Providence (0.2%), Scituate (0.5%), Exeter (0.5%) and Burrillville (1.3%).

Providence remained by far the largest municipality in Rhode Island, growing to nearly 191,000 residents. Cranston and Warwick were nearly tied at almost 83,000 each, with Pawtucket ranking next at over 75,000. No other Rhode Island community had a population of more than 50,000.

Federal officials issued the municipal-level data as part of a partial data release on Thursday, as the Census Bureau scrambles to get out census-bloc data for states to begin political redistricting efforts after the process was delayed by the pandemic.

The state-level census data already offered an initial surprise back in April, when Rhode Island unexpectedly retained both of its two seats in the U.S. House.

Top Rhode Island Democrats this week picked a group of 18 lawmakers and members of the public who will use the new data to redraw Rhode Island's political maps in the coming months, setting the state for next year's election.

More detailed local data is expected to be released by Sept. 30, according to census officials.

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi and Sarah Guernelli contributed to this story.