Plato, Missouri, population 109, is the new geographic center of the population of the United States.
U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves congratulated the southeast Missouri town during a news conference Thursday.
"2010 is a special decade in our nation’s history," Groves said. "The center of the population has moved in a southerly direction in the most extreme way we've ever seen."
The Census Bureau calculates the center of population after each decennial census. It determines the center based on where an "imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly" if all 308,745,538 residents weighed the same amounts.
The center has been located in Missouri since the 1980 census. In 2000, the center was a few miles outside Edgar Springs, Missouri, a town of 190 people in the center of Phelps County.
The center has gradually drifted west and south as territories were added and as people moved. The center was first calculated after the 1790 census, when the center of population was in Kent County, Maryland, some 23 miles east of Baltimore. By 1900, it was Bartholomew County, Indiana, about six miles southeast of Columbus, Indiana.
Groves attributed the southerly drift – 23.4 miles from 2000 center – to population growth in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
Plato, located in Texas County, doesn't reflect the demographic breakdown of the rest of the United States, Groves said. Its residents are 95% non-Hispanic white, 2% are African-American and 4.6% are Hispanic (reflecting some overlap in reporting on census forms).
Groves said the Census Bureau will present Plato with a marker to display this once-a-decade honor.
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