KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. population is shifting south and west, according to data from the 2020 Census.
The Census Bureau announced Hartville, Missouri, as the center of the U.S. population Tuesday, noting that it’s the closest incorporated town to the location where the country’s population is balanced from east to west and north to south.
A Missouri town has been the center of population every decade since 1980. Only Indiana with six instances has been the center of population more than the Show-Me State.
Since 2010, when Plato, Missouri, was the center of population, the balancing point has moved 11.8 miles southwest, according to the Census Bureau, and is actually located about 15 miles northeast of Hartville.
The center of population has been calculated since the first Census in 1790 and has moved 885.9 miles in the last 230 years from Kent County, Maryland, which is located 23 miles east of Baltimore.
The 2020 shift is the shortest distance moved since 1920 and second-shortest ever recorded. It’s also the largest southward shift in Census history, according to Historical Center of Population data.
The center of population is described as “a point at where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if everyone were of identical weight” and “represents the average location of where people in the United States live.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Geodetic Survey — which provides precise latitude, longitude and elevation measurements for the U.S. government — will mark the center of population with a survey monument.
“NOAA’s work to survey and map our country captures snapshots of history as it unfolds through the years,” Nicole LeBoeuf, assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said in a statement. “These measurements also provide the foundation for services Americans rely on daily, such as driving directions and community planning.”
The shifting population represents migration from the Northeast and Midwest to the Sun Belt and also highlights the increasing immigrant population in the Southwest.
Sometime next spring, there will be a ceremony to commemorate Hartville as the 2020 Center of Population, a title it will hold until at least the completion of the 2030 Census.
“It's a great feeling to live in Hartville,” Mayor Rob Tucker said in a statement. “It has always been a town with a big heart and is now the heart of America."
Hartville is a town of 594 people located in Wright County. It’s a little more than 30 miles southwest of Plato and about 50 miles east of Springfield, Missouri.
A three-day Civil War battle, the Battle of Hartville, was fought in the area from Jan. 9-11, 1863. The city of Hartville’s Facebook page includes a photo with to cannons pointed opposite directions with U.S. and Confederate flags that reads “Welcome to Hartville, MO” and notes the Civil War battle.
Osage Bluff, which is south of Jefferson City, is the center of population for Missouri, while Toledo, located about 15 miles northwest of Emporia, is the center of population for Kansas.