The Latest Census Figures

The Census Bureau has issued its population estimates for the states for July 1, 2006, and they make for interesting reading. Over the decade, 2000-06, growth has been much higher in the West (9.7 percent) and the South (8.8 percent) than in the Midwest (2.8 percent) and the East (2.1 percent). In 2000 there were more people in the Midwest than in the West; in 2006 it was the other way around. And in 2006 there were more than twice as many people in the South as in the East. The regional breakdown looks like this, with populations rounded off to the nearest thousand, and with tenths of a percentage indicated:

Region0600% growth% of US 06/00
East54,74153,5942.1 18.319.0

So we're becoming more western and southern: Nearly 60 percent of Americans live in one of those two regions.

And the trend seems to have been accelerating over the decade. Here are the percentage growth of each region's population between July 1 of the indicated years.


As you can see, growth has decelerated down toward zero in the East and has stayed steady in the Midwest. There was a significant deceleration in growth in the West starting in 2002, while the South's growth rate has been a little higher recently than it was early in the decade.

If you look at the growth just in the 05-06 period, you see a distinct tilt toward the South, particularly in the South Atlantic coast. The overall U.S. growth rate was 1.0 percent it was less than that in California (.8 percent) but distinctly more in Texas (2.5+ percent), Florida (1.8 perent), Georgia (2.5+ percent), and North Carolina (2.1 percent). Georgia and North Carolina are now the 9th and 10th most populous states, thrusting New Jersey out of the top 10. The fastest growth rate in 05-06 was in Arizona (3.6 percent), which passed Nevada (3.5 percent). Also high were Idaho (2.6 percent), Utah (2.4 percent), and Columbia (1.9 percent). Growth is very much concentrated: 65 percent of the nation's total population growth in 05-06 occurred in the 10 fastest-growing states. Here's the list:

State% growth# growth
Ga. 2.534231,388
All U.S.A.2,891,423

Texas's growth was augmented by Louisiana's loss. Louisiana lost 219,563 people, while Texas, which had been gaining about 400,000 a year up through 05, gained nearly 600,000 in 05-06. Hurricane Katrina, obviously; although note that Mississippi still registered a slight population gain.

Every state in the South except Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia posted a higher percentage gain than the national average, as did every state in the West except California and HawaiiI. No state outside those regions posted a higher percentage gain than the national average except Delaware. The following lost population in 05-06: Rhode Island, New York, Michigan, District of Columbia, and of course Louisiana

Here's another way to look at the change, with Census estimates for natural increase (every state but West Virginia was positive here), net international migration, and net internal migration. Net international migration was heavily concentrated in a few states, with 51 percent coming into the following four states:


As for internal migration, people are voting with their feet against the East and California in droves. Here are the states with the biggest negative net internal migration:

Ill. 68,661

These tend to be states with high tax rates, high housing costs and aging industrial bases.

Here are the states with the biggest positive net internal migration:


These tend to be low tax states, with booming economies. And mostly southern: the only western states are Arizona and Nevada. Indeed, the net internal in-migration into the Rocky Mountain states (268,607) is lower than the net internal out-migration from California (287,684).

What's the political effect of these demographic changes? Mickey Kaus in an early morning post notes that one blogger predicts the Republicans will pick up 10 House seats and 10 electoral votes after the 2010 census, and challenges me to comment.

Influence Peddler sees House seats moving into Republican areas(from the Democratic northeast, and from Iowa) after the 2010 census--for a potential net change of 20. ... Doesn't that assume: a) the districts added in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Utah will invariably be Republican (your bailiwick, Barone); and b) "Republican" will mean the same thing in 2012 that it means today. ... 12:33 A.M.

My answers: b) "Republican" will mean something different from what it means today, determined primarily by the Republican nominee for president in 2008, especially if that nominee is elected president. Certainly that will be true if one of the two candidates now leading in the polls, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, is nominated. As for a), Mickey is right to suggest that not all the new districts will go Republican. Currently, Republicans seem solidly in control of the redistricting process, with the governorships and both houses of the legislatures in Texas, Florida, and Georgia. That could conceivably change by 2010. But the biggest population gains in those states are (with the exception of Austin's Travis County) in heavily Republican areas. Even so, the current districting plans in those states are so heavily tilted toward Republicans that even with Republicans in control, Democrats could wind up with a new seat or two in each (as they did in Arizona, where Republicans controlled the process in 2001-02 but could not do better than replacing a 5-1 Republican plan with a 6-2 Republican plan). Additional seats in Nevada and Utah would probably be Republican, but not reliably so in Nevada. An additional seat in North Carolina could go Democratic; Democrats controlled the districting process there in 2001-02 and are in a reasonably good position to do so again in 2011-12. Bottom line: The reapportionment after the 2010 census will be good news for Republicans, but not quite as good as Influence Peddler suggests.

By Michael Barone