Population Center of the United States

| |

If you averaged all the people living in the United States where would the center of population be?

The U.S. Census Bureau calculates the center of population in two ways: mean and median center of population.

What is the mean center of population?

Every ten years, after the decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau calculates the location that represents “the point at which an imaginary, weightless, rigid, and flat (no elevation effects) surface representation of the 50 states (or 48 conterminous states for calculations made prior to 1960) and the District of Columbia would balance if weights of identical size were placed on it so that each weight represented the location on one person.”

What is the median center of population?

The median population is the location in the United States that splits the country into two sections. The first splits the total population in a north and south half. This means that at the median center, half of the U.S populations lives north of that latitude, and half of the population lives south of that latitude.

The second split is an east-west split. This means that at that location, half of the U.S. population lives west of that point of longitude, and half of the population lives east of that location.

Historical U.S. Census counts

As the population of the United States has risen, and the Federal government has made an effort to include Native American residents, the mean center of the country’s population has shifted westward.

The U.S. Censuses held between 1790 and 1840 didn’t not, for the most part, include counts of Native Americans, skewing the results eastward towards the European settlements that began in the New England area of the country.

Even in the modern census counts, there are still areas of the country where the population is undercounted or overcounted. For the 2020 Census, Black, Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native populations were statistically undercounted.

Map of the mean center of population from 1790 to 2020

This map uses data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau to show the geographic shift in the mean center of population for the United States over time.

With each decennial census, the mean center of population shifts westward.

Shaded relief map with yellows and greens to show the change with every US Census for the mean center of population which is shown as red dots.
Map of the mean center of population for the United States based on U.S. Census data, 1790 – 2020. Map: Caitlin Dempsey using Natural Earth and U.S. Census data.

Table: mean center of population for the United States, 1790 – 2020

Census YearLatitudeLongitudeApproximate Location
202037.415725-92.346525Wright County, MO, 14.6 miles northeast of Hartville
201037.517534-92.173096Texas County, MO, 2.7 miles northeast of Plato
200037.69699-91.80957Phelps County, MO, 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs
199037.87222-91.21528Crawford County, MO, 9.7 miles southeast of Steelville
198038.13694-90.57389Jefferson County, MO, 1/4 mile west of DeSoto
197038.46306-89.70611St. Clair County, IL, 5 miles east-southeast of Mascoutah
196038.59944-89.20972Clinton County, IL, 6 1/2 miles northwest of Centralia
195038.80417-88.36889Clay County, IL, 3 miles northeast of Louisville
194038.94833-87.37639Sullivan County, IN, 2 mile southeast by east of Carlisle
193039.0625-87.135Greene County, IN, 3 miles northeast of Linton
192039.1725-86.72083Owen County, IN, 8 miles south-southeast of Spencer
191039.17-86.53889Monroe County, IN, in the city of Bloomington
190039.16-85.815Bartholomew County, IN, 6 miles southeast of Columbus
189039.19889-85.54806Decatur County, IN, 20 miles east of Columbus
188039.06889-84.66111Boone County, KY, 8 mile west by south of Cincinnati, OH
187039.2-83.595Highland County, OH, 48 miles east by north of Cincinnati
186039.00667-82.81333Pike County, OH, 20 miles south by east of Chillicothe
185038.98333-81.31667Wirt County, WV, 23 miles southeast of Parkersburg2
184039.03333-80.3Upshur County, WV, 16 miles south of Clarksburg.
183038.965-79.28167Grant County, WV, 19 miles west-southwest of Morefiled.
182039.095-78.55Hardy County, WV, 16 mile east of Moorefield2
181039.19167-77.62Loudoun County, VA, 40 miles northwest by west of Washington, DC
180039.26833-76.94167Howard County, MD, 18 miles west of Baltimore.
179039.275-76.18667Kent County, MD, 23 miles east of Baltimore
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Coordinates are in decimal degrees.

Map: Median Center of Population for the United States: 1880 to 2020

This map created by the U.S. Census Bureau shows how the median center of population has shifted with each decennial census starting with 1880 up to 2020.

Map of a section of the United with yellow baseman and grey outlines for states and counties showing how the median population center has changed since 1880 for each ten year census.  A small inset map in the lower left hand corner shows the entire U.S.
Map showing the Median Center of Population for the United States: 1880 to 2020. Source: U.S. Census, public domain.

Read next: What is the Geographic Center of the United States?

References

African Americans and the Federal Census, 1790–1930. (2012, July). National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/files/research/census/african-american/census-1790-1930.pdf

American Indians in the federal decennial census, 1790-1930. (2017, June 26). National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/research/census/native-americans/1790-1930.html

US Census Bureau. (2021, November 16). Position of the geographic center of area, mean and median centers of population: 2020. Census.gov. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2020/geo/geographic-center-2020.html

Related

Share: