Census: Population up 9.7% from 2000

WASHINGTON — The U.S. population has reached an all-time high and Texas was the big winner among eight states that will gain seats in Congress, according to the first data released from the 2010 census.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered the first results of the 23rd national census to President Obama on Tuesday morning. The decennial head count shows that the official U.S. population is 308,745,538, nearly 10 percent larger than the 2000 census total of 281,421,906.

The 9.7 percent population growth rate from 2000 to 2010 was the second-lowest of the past century, trailing only the 7.3 percent growth from 1930 to 1940, the height of the Great Depression.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves couldn't estimate how much the current economic woes have contributed to the past decade's slow rate of growth. But William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, a research center in Washington, said the economy was a key factor in slowing the growth of legal and illegal immigrants since 2006.

"The housing market crashed, jobs were hard to come by, and people stopped coming," Frey said of many immigrants.

Groves said that an estimated 60 percent of the 27.3 million new U.S. residents since 1990 were the products of births to U.S. residents, while the rest stemmed from immigration. The census doesn't ask about a person's legal status, so Groves had no estimate on the percentage of U.S. residents who are illegal immigrants.

Census figures help determine how more than $4 trillion will be divided among state, local and tribal governments over the next 10 years. The findings also inform public policy decisions on transportation, public health, senior services and neighborhood improvements.

In addition to determining how much state and federal funding will go to individual communities for the next 10 years, 2010 census population figures determine which states will gain or lose seats in Congress.

Changes in Congress

Texas added nearly 4.3 million residents from 2000 to 2010, and that 21 percent growth rate will give the Lone Star State four new members in the U.S. House.

Texas, which has added congressional seats for seven consecutive decades, joins Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington as the states that will gain seats under the new congressional apportionment. Florida will add two seats, and the other states will add one apiece.

The shift in the placement of congressional seats is likely to benefit Republicans, since most of the states that are gaining seats are GOP strongholds. In addition, Obama arguably will have a tougher road to re-election, since the reapportionment changes amount to a loss of six electoral votes in states that he carried in the 2008 election.

Kansas kept its four U.S. House seats, but the state's incoming governor said it faces a potential loss of clout in another decade if it doesn't improve its economy and boost its population more quickly.

Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, a Republican who takes office Jan. 10, also said he expects legislators to rewrite congressional district boundaries so that the already sprawling 1st District of western and central Kansas grows significantly.

Kansas lost a single seat after the 1990 census, part of a decades-long decline in representation. Before the 1930 census, the state had eight House seats.

States that will lose one seat apiece because of population shifts are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. New York and Ohio each will lose two seats.

The population numbers reflect what demographers have known for decades: that people are leaving the ailing economies of the Midwest and the expensive Northeastern states for the warmer climates and better economic opportunities in the West and South.

Continuing a decades-long trend, the southern and western regions of the nation grew the fastest, at 14.3 and 13.8 percent, respectively. Nevada led all states, with 35 percent population growth since 2000. Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Texas rounded out the five fastest-growing states.

The population in the hard-hit Rust Belt region of the Midwest grew only 3.9 percent, and the Northeast grew even more slowly, at 3.2 percent. Michigan, whose population dipped by six-tenths of a percent, or nearly 55,000 residents, was the only state that had lost residents since 2000. Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, lost nearly 83,000 residents, for a 2.2 percent population decline.

Other states with the slowest growth rates since 2000 were Rhode Island, Louisiana, Ohio and New York.

Kansas' population grew by 6.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, up almost 165,000 residents, to more than 2.85 million.

Despite predictions of low response rates among citizens because of the recession and supposed anger at the federal government, participation in the 2010 census matched the 2000 head count, with 74 percent of households returning the questionnaires. The 2010 census also came in nearly $2 billion under budget.