By Jim Ellis
Jan. 3, 2018 — The Census Bureau just released their year-end population estimates and we again see a familiar pattern with regard to populace ebbs and flows. People are continuing to relocate south and west, while the Midwest and northeast fail to keep pace.
Eight states in the Great Lakes, northeast, and Midwest are again projected to see their congressional representation reduced, while the south, Pacific Northwest, and Rocky Mountain sectors will likely elect additional House members.
As always, there are quirks within the population numbers. While Idaho was the fastest growing place with a 2.2 percent increase in total population during this calendar year, the Gem State will again be nowhere close to gaining a third seat for its congressional delegation. Nevada, which added a fourth district in the 2010 reapportionment, is the second-fastest growing state with a 2.0 percent increase, but it doesn’t appear the trends will be sufficient for them to gain a fifth seat in the 2020 distribution. It is very difficult for the small states to gain or lose districts, as the Idaho and Nevada numbers demonstrate.
Though Idaho had the fastest growth rate, Texas saw the greatest raw number resident increase. From the beginning of 2017, the Lone Star State population grew by just under 400,000 people. Florida was second with more than 327,000 new individuals now living there, while California saw their populace grow by more than 240,000 people. Washington, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona all had increases between 125,000 and 107,000 people, respectively.
On the other end of the spectrum, eight states actually have fewer residents than they did at the beginning of 2017. The state with the largest negative number is Illinois with a reduction of more than 33,000 people. The loss actually took them below Pennsylvania in total population, relegating them to the sixth-largest state in the Union.
Though the Keystone State will very likely lose another congressional district in the 2020 reapportionment, as it routinely does in every census year, their slight 2017 population gain propelled them into classification as the fifth-largest state. West Virginia (-12,780 people), Wyoming (-5,595), Louisiana (-1,824), Alaska (-1,727), Mississippi (-1,315), Hawaii (-1,145), and North Dakota (-155) were the other 2017 population losers.
In terms of congressional seat distribution, Texas looks to be in position to gain three new congressional seats – they received four in 2010 – and Florida, two. North Carolina, which came within just 15,000 people of gaining a seat in 2010, is sure to pick up their 14th district in the coming reapportionment. The other gainers are in the west: Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon. Montana, Washington, Georgia, and Nevada could also be on the cusp of gaining.
The losing states are again predominantly in the Great Lakes region and the northeast. Of the eight states that touch a Great Lake, six are projected to see their representation figure drop. Illinois will surely lose one US House seat and possibly two. New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota appear primed to drop another district, though Ohio could possibly be on the borderline of keeping all 16 of their seats. Thus, Indiana and Wisconsin are the only two Great Lakes states that appear to be preserving all of their current congressional districts.
The other potential seat-losing states are Rhode Island, West Virginia, Alabama and, surprisingly, California. If the latter state does cede a district, it would be the first time in history the Golden State delegation could experience a reduction, this at a time when their total population will exceed 40 million people.
Though the south is the leading population-gaining region – 1.235 million more people reside in the southern states than when 2017 began – three states have lost, or will lose, congressional seats in the two most recent census counts and the one upcoming: Louisiana, Mississippi, and now Alabama. Therefore, the major regional population growth has gravitated to Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee.
The west gained more than 765,000 new people, the Midwest 201,000, and the northeast lagged behind with just 111,000 additional inhabitants.
With three years remaining in this decade, much can still change. In fact, at the beginning of the 10-year period starting in 2010, Virginia looked to be a gainer and Connecticut a loser, but now both appear to be in position to retain their current number of congressional seats.