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Five key trends for the Midwest from the latest population data — and the decennial U.S. Census Count coming in April

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
This year, for the 24th time in the nation’s history, the federal government will count the nation’s population. For states, their communities and residents, much is at stake in the results of this decennial census. Close to $700 billion in federal dollars is distributed every year based on results of the census, which also determines the size of a state’s congressional delegation and number of votes in the U.S. Electoral College.
Here are some population trends in the Midwest ahead of “Census Day” on April 1.

 

1. Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota lead Midwest in population growth0
In December, the U.S. Census Bureau released its last set of state estimates in advance of the official population count. Nationwide, between 2010 and 2019, the U.S. population has grown an estimated 6.3 percent — from 308.8 million to 328.2 million. Only three states in the Midwest have met or exceeded this rate of growth: Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota (see map). In contrast, Illinois is one of four U.S. states that lost population (Connecticut, Vermont and West Virginia are the others).

2. Over the past decade, the Midwest has lost 1.6 million people to other regions
Four factors contribute to changes in a state’s population: the number of births and deaths, domestic migration and international migration. That third factor, the movement of people from one area of the United States to another, is a particular concern for many states and communities in the Midwest. Between 2010 and 2019, this region lost a net total of 1.6 million people as the result of domestic migration (see map). The biggest losses occurred in Illinois (third most in the country), Michigan (fifth most) and Ohio (seventh most). In this region, only North Dakota and South Dakota have experienced net gains in population due to decade-long trends in domestic migration.
 
3. Three Midwest states expected to lose congressional seats, votes in electoral college
As the Midwest and East have lost population, due to domestic migration and other trends, the West and South have gained. That will mean greater political clout for the latter two regions following completion of the 2020 census and reapportionment. Using the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the political consulting firm Election Data Services Inc. predicts that the following states will gain U.S. House seats: Arizona (one), Colorado (one), Florida (one), Montana (one), North Carolina (one), Oregon (one) and Texas (two).
The 11-state Midwest, on the other hand, is likely to lose three congressional seats — one each in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. (Ohio also is at risk of losing a seat, and Minnesota is close to hanging on to all eight of its current seats, depending on the results of the official census count.) For decades, the Midwest and Northeast have been losing congressional seats and, as a result, votes in the U.S. Electoral College.
In 1972, for example, the 11-state Midwest held 133 Electoral College votes — 49.2 percent of the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. If the current predictions for reapportionment hold, this region will have 105 Electoral College votes in the 2024 presidential election.

 

4. Midwest’s rural counties are losing population; suburbs are gaining
Across the Midwest, rural counties are losing people. In Illinois, for example, populations dropped in each of the state’s 62 rural counties between 2010 and 2018, according to estimates released in April 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau. In four other Midwestern states — Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Ohio — population declines occurred in at least three-quarters of nonmetropolitan counties (see table). In some cases, too, these declines have been dramatic, with double-digit losses in 12 of the region’s rural counties, including five in Kansas alone.
Where is population growing? The largest increases tend to be in the suburbs. In seven Midwestern states, the state’s fastest-growing county is in a metropolitan area, adjacent to or near a county containing a large city:
These population shifts will impact how congressional and state legislative districts are drawn. Once state redistricting is complete, in time for the 2022 elections, the result will be larger (or lost) districts in rural areas, and more political clout for metropolitan regions, particularly the suburbs.
 
5. Population has slowed due to decline in births, international migration
When the U.S. Census Bureau released the new population estimates in December, it made particular note of two nationwide trends.