The first results from the 2010 U.S. census reflect a modest overall population growth over the past 10 years, with continued population shifts toward Southern and Western states. These data will be used to determine how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned to U.S. states, an exercise the United States has undertaken every 10 years since 1790.
In Washington, U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves announced December 21 that as of April 1, 2010, the resident population of the United States was 308,745,538. The data show that since the 2000 census, the U.S. population has grown by 27.3 million, or 9.7 percent.
The United States continues to be the third most populous country in the world. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the 10 countries with the largest populations are China (1.338 billion), India (1.189 billion), United States (309 million), Indonesia (235 million), Brazil (193 million), Pakistan (185 million), Bangladesh (164 million), Nigeria (158 million), Russia (142 million) and Japan (127 million).
The U.S. census does more than simply count people. It also collects information on ages, occupations, family size, race, ethnicity, income and a wide range of other data.
The newest data will cause changes in the location of congressional districts. Under the “Great Compromise” of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the U.S. Senate is made up of an equal number of representatives (two) from each state, while the U.S. House of Representatives satisfies the desire of big states to have a legislature apportioned by population.
Early in the 20th century, legislation was enacted that fixed the number of members of the House of Representatives at 435. Since then, data from each census have been used to fairly divide those 435 seats among the states according to where Americans are living.
Groves said the new data will reapportion congressional districts so that each member of the House represents 710,767 people as reported in 2010. This determination means that 12 congressional seats will move to different states in the 113th Congress, which convenes in January 2013.
The actual boundaries of each district will be determined by the governors and legislatures of the affected states prior to the 2012 elections.
“Those states gaining seats include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington. … Those losing states are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For 32 states, there is no change,” Groves said.
The reapportionment and latest census data reflect a 70-year-old population trend that has resulted in “a growth in seats for Western and Southern states, and a tendency to lose seats from the Midwest and the Northeastern states,” Grove said. “In fact, since 1940 there’s been a net shift of 79 seats to the South and West.”
“This movement south and west is really a very simple way to note how we as a population have changed and how we’ve moved over the decades,” he said.
Under the reapportionment, Texas will gain four seats, Florida will gain two and six other states in the South and West will gain one each. Ohio and New York will each lose two seats, and eight other states, most of which are in the Northeast and Midwest, will lose one each.
Observers have pointed out that many of the fastest-growing states have a significant Latino population. Among its questions, the 2010 census form asked residents to list their ethnic or racial affiliation. Groves said the U.S. Census Bureau will be releasing those and other American demographic statistics in 2011.
The 2010 census is the 23rd tally of Americans since the U.S. Constitution first mandated the decennial count in 1790. At that time, there were 3.9 million people living with U.S. borders.
Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, who spoke to reporters with Groves, said that by mandating a census to determine representation in Congress, the U.S. Founding Fathers had changed world history by taking a tool of government and using it to empower the citizenry.
“There had been censuses before, but they had been used mainly to collect taxes or to confiscate property, or to conscript residents into military service,” Blank said. “That is not what the U.S. census is about.”
To maintain itself as a representative institution of government, the U.S. House of Representatives must be apportioned “in a way that reflects the changing nation of the past two centuries,” she said. “And that requires us to know who lives where.”
MORE THAN CONGRESSIONAL SEATS
Speaking with Groves and Blank, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said the census results affect more than U.S. congressional districts.
The data also will “determine how more than $400 billion is allocated every single year by the federal government, and for the next 10 years, to local communities for everything from education to senior services to housing to law enforcement and transportation,” he said.
Businesses as well will “benefit enormously” from the findings. “This data will provide vital information that the business community will use to identify new markets, to decide where to make major capital investments and ultimately create more jobs and grow our economy,” Locke said.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)