U.S. Census 2000 – Population Trends Mapped

Caitlin Dempsey


As the numbers are released from the 2000 United States Census, mapping the data helps clarify the nationwide trends in population.

This article is the result of a cartographic and descriptive statistics exploration of the new overall population figures.

I mapped out two sets of statistics released data from the Census: absolute populations numbers at the state and county level.

U.S. Census 2000 population trends

This most recent U.S. Census marked the first time all 50 states reported an increase in population.

Overall, the reported population of the United States rose 13.2% with individual states reporting a growth ranging between half a percent to Nevada reporting the highest percentage increase of 66.3%. In all, there were twelve states that had a growth rate over 20 percent.

On the flip side, there were just two states, West Virginia and North Dakota that experienced less than a one percentage increase in growth.

A choropleth map showing the changes in population growth by state for the 2000 U.S. Census.
A choropleth map showing the changes in population growth by state for the 2000 U.S. Census. For the purpose of viewing, Alaska and Hawaii are shown at a different scale than the contiguous United States. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

County Level Population Trends

Mapping out the reported population numbers by county allows for a more detailed understanding of where population change has occurred across the nation.

Only one county in the country reported no effective growth rate. The population of Custer County in Montana shrank by one person from 11,697 to 11696.

A bivariate map showing shades of pink for population shrink and shades of blue for population growth for the 2000 U.S. Census.
A bivariate map showing shades of pink for population shrink and shades of blue for population growth for the 2000 U.S. Census. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

Population Density by county from the 2000 US Census

I also decided to look at population density.

To do this, I divided the number of people recorded per county with the calculated map acreage of each county. This gives me a fairly good estimate of the recorded population density for each county.

What I discovered is that out of the 3,140 counties listed in the 2000 US Census population data, only 178 counties were calculated to have a population density over one person per acre.

Not surprisingly, New York County (which contains Manhattan) had the highest population density with a calculated 104.218 persons per acre.

The lowest calculated population density was the Yuokon-Koyukuk Census Area with a calculated population density of 0.000044923 persons per acre.

With the exception of San Francisco County (ranked number 5th with a population density of 25.62 people per acre), all of the ten most densely population counties in the United States are along the East Coast.

Eight out of the ten least populated counties were found in Alaska. Garfield County, Montana and Loving County, Texas were the other two.

A map with shades of yellow to green showing population density.
Population density by county from the 2000 U.S. Census. Data derived from 2000 U.S. Census population reports at the county level. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

Center of Population for each U.S. State

With each U.S. Census, the weighted population center of the United States is determined. This is the theoretical center of the United States based on population. Related: 2010 Mean Center of Population for the United States

The 2000 United States Census center of population was determined to lie in Phelps County, approximately 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs, a rural community whose population totaled 190.

This point is approximately 12.1 miles south and 32.5 miles west of the 1990 center of population. Each star on the map represents the sequential population center of the United States calculated from that decade’s census.

The first population center was calculated for 1790 and continues each decade through to the 2020 Census.

A shaded relief map of the contiguous United States with the weighted population center for each of the censuses from 1790 to 2020.
The change in the weighted population center of the United States from each census, 1790-2020. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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4 thoughts on “U.S. Census 2000 – Population Trends Mapped”

  1. Probably because USA was colonised from the east and relatively late. So the balance or equilibrium hasn’t been reached yet… Just a theory.

  2. There’s a lot of migration from north to across the south these days, which would also bring the population center down and somewhat west

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