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Small Missouri town designated as heart of US population

The Census Bureau says a town of 600 people in south-central Missouri is the center of the U.S. population based on the 2020 census.

(CN) — The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Tuesday that the center of the country's population is near Hartville, a town of about 600 people in the central southern area of Missouri.

Every 10 years, the agency reveals where the new center of the U.S. population is located based on results of the decennial census. Tuesday’s announcement marks the fifth decade the population center has been found somewhere in Missouri.

Following the 2010 census, the center was Plato, a town in The Show-Me State that just 82 residents call home.

Hartville is expected to receive a celebratory survey monument next year from the National Geodetic Survey, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

The center of population is the average location of where people in the U.S. currently live.

 The first published calculation of the center in 1790 was the colonial town of Chestertown, Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay. About 3.9 million people were counted as living in the original 13 colonies during that first census. 

“It's amazing how the population just took huge leaps, starting off with about 3 million people and then, all of a sudden, tens of millions of people,” said Sharon Tosi Lacey, the Census Bureau’s chief historian, in a statement earlier this month. 

“Immigration has played a huge part in that,” Lacey added.

During the next 230 years, the bureau says, the center has moved steadily westward. And, more recently, census data shows a population shift towards the Southwest.

“The movement of the center of population helps tell the story of this century’s migration South and West,” said Ron Jarmin, the Census Bureau’s acting director, in a statement. “It helps visualize where we live.”

Calculating America’s center every decade helps surveyors and demographers track population movements and monitor the country’s expansion throughout the years. 

“NOAA’s work to survey and map our country captures snapshots of history as it unfolds through the years,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, in a statement.

LeBoeuf added that these measurements “also provide the foundation for services Americans rely on daily, such as driving directions and community planning.”

The Census Bureau says the largest movements of the population center by miles were between 1850 and 1890, as the Gold Rush in California and land speculation in Oklahoma pushed people farther west. 

According to the agency, Hartville Mayor Rob Tucker was thrilled to see his town recognized as the 2020 center of population. 

“It's a great feeling to live in Hartville. It has always been a town with a big heart and is now the heart of America," he told the bureau. 

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