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May 9, 2011
NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey disc, commemorating the national center of population as calculated by the Census Bureau and measured by the National Geodetic Survey.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
Townspeople, elected representatives, government officials and hundreds of students today celebrated the naming of Plato, as the 2010 Census U.S. center of population. Amid music, speeches, banners and cheers, village chairman Bob Biram welcomed the crowd, saying, “We’re proud of our village. As one of our students said, ‘we were in the middle of nowhere; now we are in the middle of everywhere.’ ”
At the event, U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and Juliana Blackwell, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey, revealed a survey disc, commemorating the national center of population as calculated by the Census Bureau and measured by the National Geodetic Survey.
Each decade after tabulating the decennial census, the Census Bureau calculates the mean center of population for the country, as well as for each state and county. The national center of population is determined as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308,745,538 residents counted in the 2010 Census were of identical weight.
Following the 2010 Census, the U.S. center of population is at 37.517534 north latitude and 92.173096 west longitude. This spot in Missouri’s Texas County is approximately 2.9 miles east of Plato, an incorporated village in the heart of the Ozarks with a 2010 Census population of 109.
After the 2000 Census, the center of population was situated near Edgar Springs, which is about 23 miles northeast of Plato.
“The distance between the centers of population, decade by decade, varies depending on how the population has changed,” Groves said, “reflecting the addition of territories and the movement of people.”
Mean Center of Population for the United States: 1970 to 2010.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
Since 1790, the center of population has moved in a westerly direction, with a more pronounced southerly pattern the past few decades. The new center of population now stands
873 miles from the first center in 1790, which was located near Chestertown in Kent County, Md.
NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey, the U.S. government source for precise latitude, longitude and elevation measurements, has monumented the national center of population with geodetic survey marks since 1960. This distinction serves a commemorative purpose for the community as well as a functional reference point for the nation’s mapping and charting infrastructure. NOAA Project Manager Dave Doyle noted that this decade’s mark will be the first to be set in stone, represented by a block of Missouri red granite.
“We hope everyone will visit these marks,” Doyle said. “They’re fun to find, and each one tells a unique story about our nation’s history.”
This is the fourth decade in a row the national center of population has been located in Missouri. Following the 1950, 1960 and 1970 censuses, the center of population was in Illinois. Indiana had the distinction for the previous six decades, from 1890 to 1940. Covington, Ky., was the population center in 1880, and Ohio was the centerpiece in 1870 and 1860. West Virginia was home to the center of population from 1830 to 1850, though it was still part of Virginia at the time. During the previous two censuses in 1810 and 1820, Virginia held the spot. A location 18 miles west of Baltimore was determined to be the center of population in 1800 following the second decennial census.