By: John Besl
At this point on the calendar one year ago, we were alerting readers to the public awareness campaign surrounding the 2010 Census, the 23rd in a string of national headcounts dating back to the first census in 1790. The initial release of 2010 Census results occurred late last year, on December 21, when Census Bureau Director Robert Groves announced that the resident population of the United States as of April 1, 2010 stood at 308.75 million, a 9.7% increase since 2000. Beyond that, the only other information released that day was population counts for each of the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This limited data release satisfied the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to provide population counts for dividing seats in the House of Representatives among the 50 states.
For the fifth consecutive decade, Nevada ranked first among the 50 states in rate of population change, with a 35.1% increase. Ohio’s population increased by a scant 1.6%, ranking 47th in percent change. Only Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Michigan trailed the Buckeye State. Neighbor states Indiana and Kentucky grew much faster than Ohio, with growth rates of 6.6% and 7.4%, respectively. Those rates still placed Indiana and Kentucky in the bottom half of the state ranking on 2000-2010 percent population change.
Despite its sluggish growth, Ohio retained its #7 rank in population size, the same position the state has held since 1990. Along with Ohio, four other states bordering the Great Lakes, each ranking in the top ten on population size, also ranked in the bottom ten on rate of population growth. The other large states with very slow or no growth are New York (3rd in population size and 46th in percent change), Illinois (5th and 42nd), Pennsylvania (6th and 41st), and Michigan (8th and 50th.) At the opposite end of the growth spectrum, four southern states ranked in the top ten on both population size and growth rate: Texas (2nd and 5th), Florida (4th and 8th), Georgia (9th and 7th), and North Carolina (10th and 6th.) See Map 1 below for more details.
Map 1. Percent Population Change, 2000-2010
As envisioned by the founding fathers, the decennial census is the basis for our representative form of government. Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution spells out the raison d’etre for the census, stating “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers.” The framers of the U.S. Constitution called for a national headcount every 10 years so that political power would follow population shifts, with the more populous states having greater representation in “the people’s house” of the Congress.
The process of dividing the 435 House seats among the 50 states, based on population counts collected in the decennial census, is called “apportionment.” Map 2 below shows apportionment gains and losses for the lower 48 states, along with the number of congressional seats allotted to each state by 2010 Census results. Texas is the big winner, adding four seats to reach a total of 36. The next biggest winner, Florida, gains two seats. For only the second time in a century, California failed to add a seat (the first time doesn’t really count since Congress failed to re-apportion itself after the 1920 Census.) Texas, Florida, and California, each with large Hispanic populations, account for a sum of 116 House seats, one quarter of the total.
Ohio and New York hold the unfortunate distinction as biggest losers in the 2010 re-apportionment, dropping two seats each. The other states with apportionment losses are all in the Northeast or Midwest, with the lone exception of Louisiana, where natural disasters in the form of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 spurred a large out-migration of residents.
Map 2. Congressional Seats and Apportionment Change, 2010 Census
Ohio has lost two seats in three of the last four census re-apportionments, dating back to the 1980 Census. The size of the state’s congressional delegation peaked at 24 in 1930 and again in 1960, and has now dropped by one third. When the next national elections come around in November 2012, Ohio’s influence in the nation’s capital will be reduced not only through the down-sizing of its congressional delegation, but in the race for president as well. Ohio’s status as king-maker in presidential elections will also take a hit, since the number of Electoral College votes is determined by the size of each state’s congressional delegation (representatives and senators.) The Buckeye State will have 18 electoral votes (16 representatives plus 2 senators) in 2012, down from a high of 26 in the 1964 election.
Map 3 illustrates the change in congressional seats (and electoral votes) by state over the past 50 years, since 1960, one year after Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. The Sun Belt-Rust Belt dichotomy is immediately evident. The three states highlighted earlier – California, Texas, and Florida – have gained a total of 43 congressional seats, one tenth of the 435 House seats. Remember, that’s just the 50-year increase, and doesn’t include the 73 seats that those three states already claimed in 1960. Thirty-one of those 43 seats were surrendered by the Rust Belt trio of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Nine other northern states ranging from Missouri to Massachusetts each lost two or more House seats, a sum of 28 - still less than the aggregate losses of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Map 3. Change in Congressional Seats, 1960-2010
As some readers may be aware, the Census Bureau has begun the state-by-state release of 2010 Census counts for the purpose of legislative redistricting. These counts provide the first look at detailed population data for small areas such as counties, cities, villages, census tracts, and blocks. The data files include detailed counts by race and Hispanic origin for the voting-age population, as required under Public Law 94-171, for use in redrawing federal, state, and local legislative districts. The redistricting data files, commonly known as PL 94-171 files, have already been released for several states, including Indiana. Please check back with the CRC blog next month, when we hope to report on new census counts and population trends in the 15-county Cincinnati metropolitan area.