Census Data Shows a Changed American Landscape; New Population Center Is Plato, Mo.


Overall, the Sun Belt experienced some of the greatest population growth in the country. Nevada outpaced the country, expanding by more than 35 percent while Arizona, Utah and Texas followed with growth more than 20 percent.

Along with the shift of population to the South has come a shift from cities to suburbs. The suburbs of southern cities such as Atlanta, Dallas and Houston saw record gains in overall populations. More than half of the cities with large black populations experienced declines in their populations because of an exodus to the suburbs.

As some cities recorded a loss in population to the suburbs, many cities experienced a racial rebalancing with steadily growing numbers of Hispanics and shifting numbers of whites and blacks. In data set to be released today, demographers expect Washington, D.C. and New York City to increase in the number of whites in their cities for the first time since the 1950s.

While many large cities transformed in their racial makeup and size, two stood out with dramatic losses in population. Due in large part to damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans' population shrunk by 30 percent over the course of 10 years. In Michigan, Detroit shed nearly 65 people a day for a decade, causing its population to plummet 25 percent because of economic strife and a shift to the suburbs.

And then there were the oddballs from the 2010 Census. Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, experienced the largest growth in the state, expanding its population size by 43 percent while Maricopa, Arizona, the new hometown of her daughter Bristol and grandson Tripp, increased by a whopping 4,000 percent.

The trends of this changing American landscape will come into play during redistricting decisions state legislatures will make in the coming months. Analysts expect new congressional districts to reflect the overall trends revealed by the local Census data, beginning with the rise in Hispanic population.

"There's little doubt that the growth in the Latino population is going to eventually result in a more Hispanic representation in legislatures and Congress, as well," said Tim Storey, a redistricting analyst with the National Council of State Legislatures. "But it's going to take time. The maps are being drawn now."

Storey argued shifts from cities to suburbs and slow growth in rural areas will also spur new redistricting patterns.

"From a national perspective, there will be fewer rural legislators, period, because those areas of the country continue to not grow or lose population," Story said. "There will be a shift of political power to suburban areas, period."

Ten states -- Ohio, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- lost a total of 12 congressional seats to eight states -- Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington -- in the reapportionment process.

And with GOP gains from the 2010 election, redistricting might favor Republicans in this Census cycle.

"Republicans are in their best position politically for redistricting than they've ever been in, period," Storey said. "Republicans are positioned very well to not be on the short end of the redistricting process."

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