The area two miles east of Edgar Springs, Mo. has but weeks to enjoy its status as the mean center of population in the United States. The Census Bureau will announce the new location next month as part of its rolling announcements of census figures that began last December.
The 2010 Census offers a view of a country in transition, with the population continuing its shift westward. This has implications for the 2012 election, as key states have, based on the new population figures, gained and lost seats in the House of Representatives.
The resident U.S. population as of April 1, 2010, according to the census figures, is 308,745,538, a growth of 9.7% since the 2000 census. The South, the region with the largest population, grew by 14.3%, followed by the west, which grew by 13/8%. The Midwest grew by 3.9% and the northeast by 3.2%.
In 1910, four of the five most populous states were in the northeast and Midwest, with Texas a fifth. The west comprised only 7.7% of the national population. Today, it is home to the four states that experienced the most dramatic growth: Nevada (35.1%); Arizona (24.6%); Utah (23.8%); and Idaho (21.1%).
The northeast and the Midwest regions have consistently declined in relative size over the last century. In 1990, for the first time, the northeast became the nation’s smallest region with 20.4%. Meanwhile, in the South, there was a wide range between individual states. For example, Louisiana experienced 1.4% growth, while Texas saw 20.6% growth.
This decade, Michigan, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Ohio, and New York have exhibited the slowest growth.
What does this mean for congressional reapportionment? Since 1940, the trend is a growth in seats for western and southern states, and losses in the House for states in the Midwest and the northeastern states. In the last 70 years, according to census figures, there has been a net shift of 79 seats to the south and west.
With the official 2010 population counts, there is a further shift of 12 seats, affecting 18 states. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington each gained seats in the house. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all lost seats. There is no change for 32 states.
Texas gained four seats, the most this decade. It has gained seats for seven consecutive decades. According to census figures, California will have 53 seats in the House, Texas, 26, and New York and Florida will each have 27. Seven states will have only one representative.
In 1790, the center of the U.S. population was in Kent County, Md. The nation has been moving west ever since. The Census Bureau expects the new center will remain in Missouri or perhaps movie south into Arkansas. So enjoy being the center of attention while you can, Edgar Springs.