Imagine that the United States is a flat, weightless, rigid map, and everybody on it weighs the same amount. Were that the case, the center of the U.S. population, or the point where that weightless map would balance perfectly according to calculations by the U.S. Census Bureau, would be near Hartville, Mo., a town of 600 about 120 miles south of the state capital, Jefferson City.
The center of population, which is based on the 2020 Census redistricting data, represents the average location of where people in the U.S. live. The Census Bureau has calculated the center every decade since 1790, when the first published calculation of the center of population was Chestertown, Md., 23 miles east of Baltimore. Over the years, the center has shifted west and south as the population moved; the center has been in a town in Missouri since the 1980 census. In 2010, the center was in Texas County, about 3 miles northeast of Plato and about 30 miles northeast of Hartville.
Representative Hannah Kelly (R), whose District 141 includes Hartville, says the area makes a great fit to be named the center of the population because Missouri is known as the heartland, and the area has many family-owned farms that help to feed the country and the world.
“There is a lot of economic opportunity in Missouri, where parents can work hard and provide for their children, and pass on the values of freedom and faith to their children,” she says. “Missouri embodies the American spirit and helps to move the country’s economy forward, making it the perfect home for the center of population.”
The latitude and longitude coordinates of the center are 37.415725 N, 92.346525 W, a location 14.6 miles from Hartville. This is the most western and southern center-of-population point in U.S. history.
Kelly notes that the area is also home to Marshfield, Mo., home to the longest-running Independence Day parade west of the Mississippi River. Hundreds of families show up for the July Fourth events each year; in 1991, President George W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush walked in the parade.
An event in spring 2022 will recognize Hartville as the center of population. The Census Bureau says the event will include an on-site unveiling of a commemorative survey monument by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Geodetic Survey, which is the U.S. government’s authoritative source for precise latitude, longitude and elevation measurements.
Kelly says her district is excited and honored to be recognized. “I love that a city in Missouri is being named the center of population during the same year that Missouri is celebrating its bicentennial,” she says. “These two events coinciding with one another helps to emphasize Missouri’s contributions to America during the past, present and future.”
Hartville is also represented by District 33 Senator Karla Eslinger (R).
Nora Caley is a Denver-based freelancer.