America's population center is edging away from the Midwest, pulled by Hispanic growth in the Southwest, according to census figures. The historic shift is changing the nation's politics and even the traditional notion of the country's heartland — long the symbol of mainstream American beliefs and culture.
The West is now home to the four fastest-growing states — Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho — and has surpassed the Midwest in population, according to 2010 figures. California and Texas added to the southwestern population tilt, making up more than one-fourth of the nation's total gains since 2000.
When the Census Bureau announces a new mean center of population next month, geographers believe it will be placed in or around Texas County, Mo., southwest of the current location in Phelps County, Mo. That would put it on a path to leave the region by midcentury.
Among census findings:
• In Arizona, Hispanics accounted for roughly half of the state's population increase since 2000, according to census estimates.
• In seven of the eight Mountain states — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — Hispanics accounted for nearly 50 percent or more of the population gains among children under 18. Montana was the exception.
• The Western U.S. grew 13.8 percent from 2000 to 71.9 million people, surpassing the Midwest as the second most populous region. The Midwest rose 3.9 percent and the Northeast gained 3.2 percent. The West's growth rate is nearly equal to the South's, which rose 14.3 percent to 114.6 million on the Sun Belt strength of Texas and Florida.
• California, which failed to add a House seat for the first time in its history, would have lost population if it weren't for growth among Hispanics and other minorities, according to 2010 figures released Tuesday. The state, the nation's largest with 37.3 million, continues to grow primarily from immigration and births.
Nation's heartland is shifting