US Census in numbers: How many people live in America? And what does that mean for Congress?

Six states will hold elections for members of Congress in brand new districts. Seven other states will lose them

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 26 April 2021 23:39
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Riders carry the Texas state flag during the opening ceremony of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, April 16, 2021 in San Angelo. The Lone Star state will get two new congressional representatives as a result of the latest census
Riders carry the Texas state flag during the opening ceremony of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, April 16, 2021 in San Angelo. The Lone Star state will get two new congressional representatives as a result of the latest census

The nation’s shifting political map continues to add people and power to the American South and West, at the expense of the East Coast and Midwestern states, with the release of once-in-a-decade census results from the federal government.

Since 1790, the US has surveyed the population every 10 years to determine its representation in the House of Representatives relative to the people in each state.

After delays and legal challenges under Donald Trump in 2020, results from the first census of the century – also performed during the coronavirus pandemic – will kick off a contentious redistricting process that could redraw the balance of power in Congress.

Census figures are used to allocate the 435 seats in the House – with some states gaining and others losing seats, relative to their population. (Each state elects two people to the US Senate.)

The apportionment population includes the residents in each state, plus overseas military and federal civilian employees and their dependents who are allocated to a home state. It does not include Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

Data used for redistricting – the process of drawing up the jurisdiction lines for each member of Congress – will be shared with states by 16 August, as politicians begin to scramble for midterm elections in 2022.

331,449,281

That is the latest total population of the US, according to the US Census Bureau.

It marks an increase of 2.7 million people, or 7.4 per cent, from 2010.

But it is also the second-slowest population growth in US history, slightly above the growth between 1930 and 1940 in the decade following the Great Depression.

Roughly 63 per cent of the country now lives in its Sun Belt and Western states, marking a shift from the Northeast and Midwest into southern states and up along the West Coast.

The latest figures also mark a national population increase of more than 230 million people over the last 100 years – with the same representation in the House and Senate.

How many seats are in the House?

435, as set by the US Constitution. The number of representatives in each state is determined through the apportionment process. Every state elects two people to the US Senate.

Which states are getting new House seats?

Texas will get two House seats in 2022, after the state saw its population spike by nearly 4 million people over the last decade to 29,145,505.

Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one.

Which states are losing seats?

Despite seeing its population grow by 2.2 million people over the last decade, California will lose a congressional seat.

Midwestern states Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will also lose a seat.

Census officials announced that New York will lose one congressional seat after the state fell short of just 89 people included in the survey, in a state with a population of more than 19 million people.

West Virginia – which saw the largest population decrease within the last decade, with a 3.2 per cent drop from 2010 – will also lose a seat.

The most populous state

More than 39.5 million people live in California. The state saw the third-largest population spike, with 2.2 million people since 2010, behind Texas, with 4 million new residents, and Florida, with 2.7 million.

Utah, meanwhile, saw an 18.4 per cent increase in its population, which has grown to 3.2 million over the last decade.

The least populous state

Nearly 577,000 people live in Wyoming.

The state and its relatively small population size – and the congressional power of the majority white state – have been frequently paired in contrast with Washington DC, which has a population of more than 689,000 people, with a 49 per cent Black population, without any senators or voting members in the House, as statehood proponents and members of Congress debate whether to make the nation’s capital city the 51st state.

The biggest loss

With the devastation from 2017’s Hurricane Maria and poor federal response to the disaster and its aftermath, Puerto Rico – which is not a state – saw a nearly 12 per cent decline in its residential population over the last decade, down to 3.2 million from 3.7 million in 2010.

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