NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Population Shifts Benefit Sunbelt, South

December 29, 1999

Population growth in the South and West will increase the political clout of states in those regions according to an analysis of 1999 Census Bureau estimates. The official 2000 Census will be used to apportion the House of Representatives.

  • Eight Western and Southern states will gain ten seats: Arizona andTexas (two each), and California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Montana and Nevada (one each).
  • Analysts note Montana's gain of one seat is borderline; if population drops just 934 next year, it won't get the seat.
  • Eight states stand to lose ten seats: Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin (one each), and New York and Pennsylvania (two each).

Observers say the shift should benefit Republicans, since the South and Sun Belt are strong GOP areas. Democrats' hopes that California would pick up two seats were dashed when the numbers showed the state was 250,000 short of adding a second seat.

Population changes used to reflect economic trends; when one part of the country was booming, people would move there from areas that weren't. Now however, with the entire country thriving, other factors, such as quality of life, are having a greater influence on migration. That might explain why such states as Nevada, Arizona and Georgia are showing such large gains, and why the Northeast continues to lose people.

  • For the 14th straight year, Nevada grew the fastest, up 3.8 percent from 1998 to 1999 and 51 percent since 1990.
  • The Northeast continues to be the slowest-growing region, although the population was up .3 percent last year.
  • California continued to lose more people than it drew from other states: 2.2 million since 1990 and 81,000 in the past year.

Source: Haya El Nasser, "Sun Belt To Gain House Clout," and "Economic Boom Redefines The Population Equation," USA Today, December 29, 1999.


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