U.S Census : Changing Landscape

Jan 7, 2011 By Deepa Gopal
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On January 5th, the Republicans took control of the U.S House of Representatives with John Boehner replacing Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House.  The Republicans had obtained their 242-193 edge in the House following dramatic gains against Democrats in last November's mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, another pattern is playing out as results of the U.S census were announced in late December. Every ten years, since 1790, a survey is done of all US households to count people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and non-citizens residing in the country.

What is 'Apportionment'?

Other than providing a picture of the changing landscape of the country, the founding fathers intended census as a way to determine how many representatives each state would send to the House of Representatives. The number of Representatives are proportional to the population so that all people have a say in their government. This allocation of seats is known as apportionment.

The Census Bureau announced that eight states in the South and West will gain a total of 12 seats, while 10 states -- mostly in the Northeast and Midwest -- will lose seats in the House. Texas had the maximum gain of 4 seats in the House, driven largely by a growth in the state's Hispanic population. The population shift favors Republicans and will play a significant role in the 2012 presidential race.

The eight states that will gain congressional seats are : Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Ten states will lose congres­sional seats: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massa­chusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Since the number of members in the House will remain the same at 435, one outcome of the census is 're-districting'. Re-districting refers to re-drawing of the district boundary lines in the state so that each district has approximately the same number of people.

How does apportionment work? Watch the video below.

Population changes

The official U.S population now stands at just over 300 million - at 308,745,538 precisely which is a 9.7% increase over the year 2000. The most populous state is California while the least populous state is Wyoming. The only state to show a population decline in mainland U.S was Michigan. Officials believe that the recent recession in the auto industry may have forced many to look for jobs outside the state.

The Census numbers are also used to allocate billions in federal aid. While the census results showed better integration between the white and minority communities (Hispanics, African American), it also showed a growing disparity between the haves and have nots. Nearly 1 in 6 Americans are living below the poverty line, with poverty being defined as less than $22,000 per year for a family of four.

The map below shows how the states population and the representation in the House has changed over the last century. You can click through the map to look at each state in detail.