The Census Bureau reports that the 1990 center of population in the U.S. now rests in a wooded area in Crawford County, Mo., having shifted a bit to the west from Desoto, Mo., since 1980. The population center is the spot where there are as many people living to the north as to the south, and to the east as to the west. In theory, at the population center an imaginary, flat, rigid map of the U.S. would balance perfectly on the point of a pencil if all 248,709,873 residents were of equal weight.
Needless to say, over the course of American history, the center of population has moved steadily westward.
Take a guess as to the population center of the United States in 1790, the year the first census was taken. Why, none other than little Chestertown, Md. A decade later, it had shifted just barely across the Chesapeake Bay, to Baltimore. Even by the time of the Civil War the population center was at Portsmouth, Ohio, just a few hundred miles inland.
But as California grew, the center meandered southwesterly through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and finally to Missouri.
The 1980s continued the trend of people flocking to Sunbelt states. It has taken 150 years of gradual expansion, during which countless pioneers obeyed Horace Greeley's famous injunction to "Go west, young man, go west!" And now at last the population center is where it ought to be, which is just about the actual geographical center of the country.