one day at a time…
Thursday, 22 January 2004

Pix Of The Day: Meanest Town In Contiguous USA
CREDITS: © William Albert Allard/NationalGeographic.com
© United States Department of Commerce /US Census Bureau
WHERE: Steelville, Missouri, USA. WHAT: mean center of contiguous USA population.
MAP: Kansas City, Steelville, St. Louis; contiguous USA and Steelville, MO.

Thumbnail click pops-up source page with larger image control.

Steelville, Missouri © William Albert Allard & NationalGeographic.comWe mean no disrespect to the town of Steelville, Missouri, when we say that in 1990 it was the meanest town in the forty eight contiguous states of the USA. We are sure it is a fine town, populated by real nice folks. Populated is the key to this: we mean 'mean' only in the sense of the place that is the mean center of population. Asked "Where is the population center of the United States?" the CPL (Chicago Public Library) begins the answer like this:

There are two measurements of the center of population of the U.S., the mean and the median population centers. These measurements are calculated every ten years, when the census is done. The mean center of population, or the population center of gravity, is that point at which a weightless, rigid, and flat representation of the 48 conterminous states and the District of Columbia would balance if identical weights were placed on it so that each weight represented the location of one person. The median center of population, or the numerical population center, is the point at which half of the population is to the north and half to the south of that point, with those persons also evenly divided east and west of that point."

In the 1990 survey Steelville, MO, was the closest town to the mean center, and in 2000 the honor shifted 12.1 miles south and 32.5 miles west to Edgar Springs, MO. The centers of population have been marching inexorably southwestward since the first census was taken. The USCB (U.S. Census Bureau) maps show this graphically for the 1790-2000 (mean) and 1880-2000 (median), and 2000 (mean, median, and geographical). The maps are available as PDF downloads from the USCB, and although they are 2.6MB, 1.3Mb, and 2.2mb respectively, they do support much greater detail resolution with the locations clearly shown.

The USCB home page is a starting point for an exciting journey into the population statistics of the USA. For the reader who asked, the 2000 population of Clark County, Nevada, wherein lies the town of Las Vegas, was 1,375,765, and for the state of Nevada 1,998,257. These figures represent population growths between 1990 and 2000 of 85.6% and 66.3% respectively, though these rates are estimated to have slowed to single year figures of 6.5% and 5.4% in 2001.

In an earlier feature, the start of an occasional series on extremities, we featured the southernmost tip of China: we will now add centers, averages, and odd geographical relationships into the series: so to the reader who asked which country lies due east of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, the answer is mainland Denmark; and Lerwick in the island of Shetland, is approximately the same distance from the Norwegian coast as it is from Aberdeen, the most northerly city in the UK.

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)