Census Results Are In: 308,745,538 People, 435 Seats

Jeremy Skog

The United States had 308,745,538 resident on April 1st, 2010 the Census Bureau revealed on Tuesday, an increase of over 27 million people since 2000. Director Robert Groves also revealed how population shifts would affect the distribution among the states of seats in the House of Representatives. Notably in this time of tightening budgets, the entire 2010 Census was completed for $1.8 Billion below its estimated price tag, saving nearly a quarter of its 2010 budget.

            The Census is mandated by the Constitution in article 1, section 2 to help ensure representative democracy by apportioning representatives among the states. After the 1790 Census there were 105 members of Congress in the lower chamber, each of which represented about 34,000 people. The latest apportionment has each member representing about 711,000 people. The size of the House of Representatives was set by law at 435 in 1913, but their distribution has changed as population has shifted, generally flowing from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West.
            The latest data continued this trend. Texas had the largest gains, picking up four seats, with Florida gaining two. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington each gained one Representative. The biggest losses were in New York and Ohio which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania each lost one district. Beyond the Congress, each seat represents the loss of one electoral vote for the president and hence less power in that race. This could affect the strategies of candidates in the 2012 election: five of the eight states which gained seats were won by McCain in the 2008 presidential race while eight of the ten which are losing seats were won by Obama.

            In the apportionment process the 435th and final seat was assigned to Minnesota. The next seat would have gone to North Carolina had about 15,000 people shifted residency. States in the Washington D.C. area were relatively unaffected.
            In population terms, the District gained about 29,000 new residents, rising to 601,723 people and above 600,000 for the first time since 1990. Further, the gain of 5.2% is the first increase since the 1950 census. The population in DC had risen by between 11% and 36% in each Census between 1910 and 1950.
            The number of residents in Maryland increased by 9% to 5,773,552 people and Virginia’s population increased by 13% to just over 8 million people. Both states saw their population rise during every Census in the 20th century. Along with increasing population the area has seen increasing density. Maryland continues as one of the highest density states with 594.8 people per square mile. Virginia has 202.6 people per square mile and the urban District has 9,856.5 people per square mile. Alaska has only 1.2 people per square mile. The highest growth over the past decade was in Nevada, which grew  at a rate of 35%. The slowest growth was in Michigan, which actually dropped in population by 0.6%.
            Overall the country grew at a rate of 9.7% over the past year. Much has been made of the fact that this is the second lowest rate in the past century and the lowest since the great depression when the 1940 Census recorded only 7.3% growth. But the rate is part of a long-term decrease in growth rates that has been present in all developed nations over the last fifty years. Between 1980 and 1990 the population grew by only 9.8% and it is unlikely that the recession of the last few years accounts for much of the reduced growth. Although only aggregate figures are available so far, Dr. Groves estimated that about 60% of the increase was due to a growing resident population and 40% of the increase was due to immigration. The Census does not record citizenship status, since it is charged only to enumerate residents.
            The 2010 budget for the decennial census was $7.4 billion with a total cost over 10 years of about $14.7 billion. The Bureau returned about $1.8 billion in unspent funds. Savings were achieved because Americans responded to carefully designed targeting strategies and advertising campaigns which encouraged response. This halted a decades-long decline in census response rates. Whereas it costs only $0.42 to count every person who returns the census by mail, it costs the government $56 to send out an enumerator. The overall 74% mail-in response rate shows how simple actions taken by citizens can add up to large reductions in the cost of government programs. The amount saved is almost equal to the $2 billion the Obama administration estimated it would save in 2010 by freezing Federal Civilian pay. The implied incentives for federal employees to achieve similar savings in the future are, to say the least, minimal. (Congress did make time recently to pass $6 billion in ethanol subsidies, an environmental program which even Al Gore admits serve no useful purpose.)

Dr. Groves announced that the more detailed county and sub-county level results will be released in February though March. Those may affect how intra-state boundaries are drawn, including the redistricting of congressional districts.

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