Christmas came a little early for statisticians and demographers with the release of the first numbers from the decennial census. These three interactive maps provide a means of understanding population movements and absolute numbers. Here are initial thoughts based on these maps.
Most of the headlines commonly reported are really continuations of past trends, or are matters that were predictable. For example, the nation growing 9.7 percent is generally consistent with growth rates in other industrialized countries. While bad economic times cause couples to wed later and have fewer children, these trends appeared before 2008, and have more to do with cultural shifts than the recent economic woes.
Another common headline involves Texas gaining representation in the House, and the big northeastern states like New York and Pennsylvania losing congressional seats. However, in every census since 1950, Texas gained seats, and New York and Pennsylvania lost seats.
The census is a real exclamation point on the troubles in Detroit. Michigan is the only state to show a net drop in population over the prior decade. Similarly, due to the long-term destruction from Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is the only deep-south state to lose a representative.
Identical to 2000, a dozen House Seats changed owners. But this is lower turnover than many other recent decades. The nation isn’t quite as mobile as it before.
California neither gained nor lost a House Seat. Its ten percent population increase over the decade slightly bettered the national average. This is newsworthy in that the 2010 is the first census since 1920 where California did not gain representation. However, despite neither gaining nor losing seats, this may be one of the most noteworthy redrawing of congressional lines in California’s history. California will have the largest redistricting ever done by a commission of citizens conducted in an entirely open process. It may be possible that the end result will bear little resemblance to California’s current highly gerrymandered boundaries.
California joined the rest of the Pacific coast states in showing more moderate growth than in prior decades. There is still westward growth, but it is stopping a little earlier on the trip. Nevada led the country with 35 percent growth for the decade, surrounded by over twenty percent gains in Arizona, Utah, and Idaho. Increasing cost of living along the Pacific Coast is likely the main culprit in shifting the focus of western growth to the intermountain states.
The release of more detailed tract-by-tract data will probably show another big population trend. Improvements in communications and transportation technology no longer make the largest of our cities the centers for population growth. Mid-size cities are now able to offer the most attractive combinations of employment opportunities, cost of living, and amenities.