NOV. 16, 2021 — The U.S. Census Bureau has calculated the center of population for the United States based on the 2020 Census population of 331.4 million. The center is near Hartville, a town of about 600 people in central southern Missouri.
Every 10 years, since the first census in 1790, the Census Bureau has calculated the “center of population,” which is a point at where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if everyone were of identical weight. This point represents the average location of where people in the United States live.
Based on the 2020 Census redistricting data released September 16, the center of the population (as of Census Day, April 1, 2020) is located about 15 miles from Hartville. In addition to calculating a national center of population, the Census Bureau also calculates centers of population for each state, county, census tract and census block group. Coordinates for each of these locations can be found on the Center of Population webpage.
The center helps surveyors and demographers quantify how fast and in what direction the U.S. population is moving over time. The center of population is officially marked with a survey monument by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey (NGS), the U.S. government’s authoritative source for precise latitude, longitude and elevation measurements.
The first published calculation of the center of population was in 1790, when it was recorded as Kent County, Maryland, 23 miles east of Baltimore. Over the next 22 decades, the population center has steadily moved westward as the nation expanded. More recently, it has moved southwestward, reflecting both immigration and the interior movement of people from the Northeast and Midwest to the Sun Belt.
Towns in Missouri have been the population centers since 1980. The largest movements by miles were between 1850 and 1890, when events like the Gold Rush in California and land speculation in Oklahoma helped spread people farther west.
“The movement of the center of population helps tell the story of this century’s migration South and West,” said Ron Jarmin, the Census Bureau’s acting director. “It helps visualize where we live.”
The NGS has commemorated the national center of population with geodetic survey marks since 1960.
“NOAA’s work to survey and map our country captures snapshots of history as it unfolds through the years,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “These measurements also provide the foundation for services Americans rely on daily, such as driving directions and community planning.”
Hartville Mayor Rob Tucker was excited to hear his town named as the 2020 Center of Population. “It's a great feeling to live in Hartville. It has always been a town with a big heart and is now the heart of America."
The event to recognize Hartville, Missouri, as the center of population of the United States is scheduled on Wednesday, September 21 at 4:30 pm Central Time at the Hartville City Park, Steele Bluff Rd, Hartville, MO. The event is free and open to the public and will include an on-site unveiling of a commemorative survey monument. (*Updated Sept. 9, 2022)
Learn more at the Center of Population press kit.