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  2000 U.S. Population Centered in Missouri

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Setting the 2000 Center of Population marker in cement.
Setting of the 2000 Center of Population.
Credit: Dave Doyle, NOAA.
The area near Edgar Springs, Missouri, is the new 2000 U.S. population center, sharing an honor previously known only to 21 other U.S. communities.

The center is in Phelps County, approximately 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs, a rural community whose population totaled 190, according to Census 2000. This point is approximately 12.1 miles south and 32.5 miles west of the 1990 center of population, which was in Crawford County, located 9.7 miles southeast of Steelville, Missouri.

Each decade, after it tabulates the decennial census, the Census Bureau calculates the center of population. The center is determined [get Adobe reader] as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless, and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 281,421,906 residents were of identical weight.

The center of gravity for this imaginary map could also be called a mean (or average) center of population. This is different than the median point [get Adobe reader], which splits the population in half both north to south as well as east to west.

Replica of the Center of Population bench mark.
Replica of the Center of Population bench mark.
Credit: Dave Doyle, NOAA.
The median point is merely a numerical center, and unlike the mean center of population, the distances between populations and the center point are not accounted for in its computation.

For Census 2000, the center of population is at latitude 37.696987° North and longitude 91.809567° West.

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  Historical Movement
 

Historically, the center of population has followed a trail that reflects the sweep of the nation's brush stroke across America's population canvas. The sweep reflects the settling of the frontier, waves of immigration and the migration west and south. Since 1790 [get Adobe reader] , the location has moved in a westerly, then a more southerly pattern. The new center of population is now more than 1,000 miles from the first center in 1790, which was located in Kent County on Fairlee Neck which is northwest of Chestertown, Maryland.

  Animated map showing the westward movement of population centers by decade
Move cursor over the National Atlas map to see the westward movement of population centers each decade.
 

In 1980, the center of population was in Jefferson County just outside of DeSoto, Missouri, which was 39.5 miles northeast of the 1990 location.

Following the 1950, 1960 and 1970 censuses, the center of population was situated in Illinois: St. Clair County southeast of Mascoutah in 1970, Clinton County northwest of Centralia in 1960 and Richland County, northwest of Olney in 1950.

Photo of O. W. Collins in a farm at the center of population for the 1940 census, near Carlisle, Indiana.
O. W. Collins at center of population for the 1940 census, near Carlisle, Indiana.
Courtesy of Acme. 
Credit: Indiana State Library.
Indiana had the distinction for the previous six decades, from 1890 to 1940. The locales included: Sullivan County near Carlisle (1940), Greene County near Linton (1930), Owen County southeast of Spencer (1920), Monroe County near the corner of North Rogers and West 8th Streets in Bloomington (1910), Bartholomew County southeast of Columbus (1900) and Decatur County southwest of Greensburg (1890).

The population center in 1880 was located near Covington, just north of the present day Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky regional airport, in Boone County, Kentucky.

Ohio had the centerpieces for two decades: Highland County just east of Hillsboro in 1870 and Pike County south of Beaver in 1860.

The fulcrum for the nation's balance was centered in what is now West Virginia from 1820 to 1850. West Virginia became a separate state in 1863. Until then it was part of Virginia.

Over four decades the center of population moved across West Virginia: in Wirt County, about 10 miles southeast of Elizabeth (1850), Upshur County around 4.5 miles northwest of Buckhannon (1840), Grant County about 9 miles southwest of Petersburg (1830), and Hardy County around 3 miles northeast of Wardensville (1820).

For 1810 the center of population was in Loudoun County, Virginia, just northwest of the historic village of Waterford.

Following the second decennial census in 1800, the center of population was determined to be in present day Howard County, Maryland, 18 miles west of Baltimore, which is about 6 miles northwest of the modern-day town of Columbia.

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  Adapted from U.S. Census Bureau Press Release, April 2, 2001: 2000 U.S. Population Centered in Phelps County, Mo.
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