Last December the United States Census Bureau released its estimate of state populations as of July 1, 2014. The big news was that Florida passed New York as the third most populous state. As you would expect, this prompted THC to take a dive into census data and he has now resurfaced to submit this report.
New York was dethroned as the most populous state in 1970 when California captured the title. The Empire State had a long run as #1 after surpassing Virginia in the 1810 census. As early as 1800 New York contained more than 10% of all Americans and it remained above that mark through the 1880 census, peaking at 14% in 1840. From 1890 through 1920 the state had between 9 and 10 percent of the U.S. population before again breaching the 10% line in both 1930 and 1940. New York still had more than 9% of the population through 1970 but as of 2014 the state contains only 6.1% of Americans, a seismic change in demographical terms.
In 2014 the most populated states are California, Texas, Florida and New York but in 1940 New York had almost as many people (13.48 million) as the other three combined (15.22 million) with California ranked #5, Texas #6 and Florida #27. Here is what's happened in the 74 years since then:
New York 13.48 19.75
California 6.91 38.80
Texas 6.41 26.96
Florida 1.90 19.89
Taking a broader look at the Northeast, we see similar trends for the New England states; Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In 1850 these states constituted 12.2% of the nation's population. By 1940 this shrunk to 6.2% and today it stands at 4.6%. There's also been a big demographic shift within New England. THC was surprised to find that until 1890 the population of Maine was larger than that of Connecticut (today CT is almost 3X the size of Maine). In fact in 1840 the three northern states (Maine, NH and Vermont) had almost as many people as the three southern states (1.078 million v 1.157 million) whereas in 2014 the three northern states have 3.27 million people compared to 11.18 million in the southern states.
We can also trace these demographic changes through the steady movement of the mean center of U.S. population since the first census. In 1790 it was in Kent County, Maryland on the east side of Chesapeake Bay, not far from Delaware. Through the 1920 census the center moved continuously due west reaching Owen County in western Indiana. Since then it's turned southwest, plunging through Illinois, crossing the Mississippi south of St Louis and reaching Kent County in southwestern Missouri. If you extrapolate the path out a few decades it leads directly to Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Walmart. THC is sure this is no coincidence!
(future center of US population from redfishuniversity)
Another way to see the demographic shift is to compare trends in New England with those of the four Southwestern desert states (Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah).
In 1940, the six New England states contained 8.23 million people while the four desert states had a total of 1.69 million with all four ranking between the 40th and 48th most populous states. Today both regions have the same population; New England with 14.69 million, the desert states with 14.60 million.
In 1940, Arizona was #43 with 499,000 people. Today, Arizona with 6.73 million is the 15th most populous state and will likely move into the #14 position this year, passing Massachusetts. Nevada was #48 with 110,000 and today is #35 with 2.84 million while New Mexico moved from 41 to 36 and Utah from 40 to 33.
The census also tracks our transition from an agrarian to urban society. In 1880, Iowa was the 9th most populous state with 1.62 million people or 3.22% of the nation's population. The state held the #10 position in both the 1890 and 1900 census. Today Iowa is #30 with 3.11 million or 0.97% of the population. The THC family has done its part to contribute to this shift as Mrs THC originally hails from Iowa City.