Editor’s note: This article is republished with permission of Builder magazine. View the original article: "Where All the People Went."


Plato, Mo., does not usually make national headlines, though the U.S. Census Bureau has declared a spot 2.7 miles outside of town to be the absolute center of the nation’s population.

If all 308,745,538 million U.S. residents weighed the same, and stood where they resided on a life-sized map of the country in April 2010, the map would balance on a fulcrum at that spot in Missouri.

The fact that the new center of the nation’s population is 23.4 miles southwest of Edgar Springs, Mo., where it was for the 2000 Census, tells the story of a country whose population migrated to the South and West during the decade.

Recently released Census data show that the South’s population grew by 14.3 percent while the West’s grew by 13.8 percent, surpassing the population of the Midwest.

Here are a few recently released Census data points of interest:

Southern stars
The Lone Star State was a population magnet in the last decade. Texas grew by 4.3 million people, attracting even more than California, which was the 2000 Census’ leader after gaining 3.4 million.

Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth together accounted for more than half of the state’s population growth. San Antonio, Texas, had its own impressive growth statistic. It kicked Detroit off the list of 10 most populous places and replaced it as No. 7.

Florida was the No. 3 population gainer, Georgia No. 4, North Carolina No. 5, and Arizona No. 6.

Those six states, which were the only ones to gain more than a million people in the decade, accounted for more than half of the overall increase for the United States.

Western standouts
By percentage, rather than actual numbers, Nevada was the fastest growing state in the 10-year period, as it has been for the past five decades. It’s also the only state that has maintained a growth rate of 25 percent or more for the last three decades.

Almost all of Nevada’s growth was, no surprise, in the Las Vegas metro area, which accounted for nearly all the state’s population and almost 82 percent of its growth.

Midwestern malaise
While the Midwest’s decline is no secret, the Census numbers quantify the fall. For instance, Michigan was the only state that had a declining population in the decade, losing 0.6 percent.

South Dakota, which grew by 7.9 percent, was the fastest growing state in the Midwest, replacing Minnesota, which had been the fastest-growing state for the previous three decades.

Northeast holds its own
New Hampshire was the Northeast’s biggest percentage gainer for the fifth straight decade, growing 6.5 percent.

New York and New Jersey, however, posted the largest numeric gains in the Northeast, gaining 401,645 and 377,544 people, respectively.

Illinois and Indiana has the largest numeric increases in that region, with each gaining more than 400,000 new residents.

Suburban migration
Chicago was the only one of the 10 most populous places in the country to lose population, its head count falling by 200,418, 6.9 percent, in the decade. Cook County as a whole fared slightly better, losing 3.4 percent of its residents.

The suburbs, no doubt, absorbed some of those souls. Kendall County, Ill., for instance, 40 miles outside of Chicago, grew 110.4 percent, gaining 60,192 people in the decade. The greater Chicago-area metropolitan statistical area (MSA) also grew 4 percent, gaining 362,789.

Some other counties in the Midwestern metro areas also grew by 50 percent or more, even as their more urban neighbors grew more slowly or declined. These included Delaware County, Ohio, outside of Columbus; Hamilton County, Ind., outside of Indianapolis; and Dallas County, Iowa, outside of Des Moines.

Washington, D.C., was interesting in the fact that both the metro area and the suburbs grew during the decade. D.C.’s population grew for the first time since the 1940s, five censuses ago, climbing by 5.2 percent. Meanwhile, Loudoun County, Va., a D.C. suburb, was the fifth fastest growing county in the nation, growing by 84.1 percent in 10 years.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.

© 2011 Hanley Wood. All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written permission of Hanley Wood.

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