Monday, December 27, 2010

Where are the 2010 Census headlines about the rural-urban divide?

I was surprised that none of the mainline (New York Times and NPR) news stories last week about the 2010 Census mentioned the percentage of the nation's population that is rural. The 2000 Census found about 17% of the population to be nonmetropolitan and about 21% to be rural (in population centers of less than 2,500 or in open country). Read more here re: definitions and 2000 counts. My hunch is that percentages of both rural and nonmetropolitan populations declined this decade.

Yet the analysis this past week of the 2010 Census results has discussed principally which states and regions have lost population and which states have gained it--and thus which states will gain an lose members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Among the states gaining seats will be Nevada, Washington, Arizona, Utah, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida (two) and Texas (a whopping four). While Nevada is sparsely populated as a state, I suspect that most of the population growth has been urban and exurban. In any event, it is the state that gained the most population as a percentage. Presumably, Utah's big gains have come in the Salt Lake City metropolis, but other parts of the state may also have experienced development and growth. States losing representatives include New York, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. The least populous state is Wyoming, with under 600,000 residents.

Links to two NPR stories about the Census are here and here, and here's one to a New York Times story. Here's a link to a Census Bureau press release. Finally, here's a link to a Carsey Institute report, dated Winter 2010, which explains why rural populations tend to be under-counted. In it, author William O'Hare notes a "sharp racial overlay" in the hard-to-count areas.

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