Political News

NC population grows, not enough for new House seat

Posted December 20, 2010 4:46 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2010 3:12 p.m. EST

— New census figures show North Carolina's population grew but not enough to add an additional seat in Congress, officials announced Tuesday. 

The closely watched 2010 census showed America's once-torrid population growth drop to 308.7 million, putting growth at around 9 percent — the lowest since Great Depression. 

North Carolina's population is about 9.5 million people, an 18.5 percent increase since 2000. 

The Census Bureau released Tuesday the first results from the once-a-decade government count, figures that will be used to reapportion the 435 House seats among the 50 states. The numbers trigger a high-stakes process wherein the dominant party in each state redraws the election map, shaping the political landscape for the next 10 years.

The U.S. is still growing quickly relative to other developed nations. The population in France and England each increased roughly 5 percent over the past decade, while in Japan the number is largely unchanged and in Germany the population is declining. China grew at about 6 percent; Canada's growth rate is roughly 10 percent.

"We have a youthful population that will create population momentum through a large number of births, relative to deaths, for years to come," said Mark Mather, an associate vice president at the Population Reference Bureau, a private firm in Washington that analyzes census data. "But demographers generally expect slower growth in the first decade of the 21st century."

The declining growth rate since 2000 is due partly to the economic meltdown in 2008, which brought U.S. births and illegal immigration to a near standstill compared with previous years. The 2010 count represents the number of people — citizens as well as legal and illegal immigrants — who called the U.S. their home on April 1 this year.

The projections do not account for overseas U.S. military personnel and their families, who are typically counted at military bases in the U.S. The Census Bureau obtains Pentagon records on overseas military and adds them to the resident count before allocating the House seats. In 2000, North Carolina beat out Utah for the last House seat because of its strong Army presence.

The release of state apportionment numbers is the first set of numbers from the 2010 census. Beginning in February, the Census Bureau will release population and race breakdowns down to the neighborhood level for states to redraw congressional boundaries.

The 2010 census results also are used to distribute more than $400 billion in annual federal aid and will change each state's Electoral College votes beginning in the 2012 presidential election.