Each decade after tabulating the decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau calculates the exact geographic mean center of the country’s population.

No, really.


According to government demographers, the center is determined “as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308,745,538 residents counted in the 2010 Census were of identical weight.”

The new center of the U.S. population is in Plato, Mo., a small town whose village chairman describes it as the middle of nowhere. Now, it is the middle of everywhere.

Government officials and hundreds of students gathered Monday in Plato to officially unveil a plaque denoting its status as the center of it all.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Geodetic Survey (which is responsible for the nation’s latitude, longitude, elevation and shoreline information) has physically memorialized the center of the population since 1960 in an effort to provide “a functional reference point for the nation’s mapping and charting infrastructure,” according to the agency.

NGS said the center of population has moved in a westerly direction since the first census in 1790 and has taken a more southerly pattern in the last few decades.

Plato is 873 miles west of the original center of the U.S. population, near Chestertown in Kent County, Md.

This is the fourth decade in a row that the center of the U.S. population is in Missouri. Following the 1950, 1960 and 1970 censuses, the center of population was in Illinois. Indiana had it for the six decades before that, from 1890 to 1940. Covington, Ky., was at the center of it all in 1880, and Ohio had it in 1870 and 1860. West Virginia (when it was still part of Virginia) was home to the center of population from 1830 to 1850.

In 1810 and 1820, Virginia held the center spot. A location 18 miles west of Baltimore was determined to be the center of population in 1800, following the second decennial census.

And if for some reason you want or need more information on all of this, U.S. Census officials plan to share more details on Wednesday.

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