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Center of Population and Territorial Expansion, 1790-2010

February 7, 2013

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The mean center of population is the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless, and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all residents were of equal weight. Historically, the movement of the center of population has reflected the expansion of the country, the settling of the frontier, waves of immigration and migration west and south. Since 1790, the center of population has moved steadily westward, angling to the southwest in recent decades.

SOURCE: Geography Division, "Centers of Population Computation for the United States 1950-2010," issued March 2011, available at www.census.gov/geo/www/2010census/centerpop2010/COP2010_documentation.pdf. Consulted for historical reference: Historical Atlas of the United States, National Geographic Society, 1988.

NOTE: The Proclamation Line of 1763 limited British settlement to areas east of the Appalachian Mountains. Alaska and Hawaii were not included in the calculation of the mean center of population until 1950. Puerto Rico was not included in any decade. For more information on the mean center of population, an animated map, and other resources, see www.census.gov/geo/www/2010census/centerpop2010/centerpop2010.html. This graphic is adapted from the "Census Atlas of the United States" published by the Census Bureau in 2007. More information about this publication is available at www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/censusatlas/.

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