The South is rising again

The Census bureau’s mid-decade population estimate shows definitively that the American political center of gravity has shifted to the South and West. Those states are now as politically dominant as the Northeast and Midwest were in 1940.

That trend will accelerate when the 435 House seats are reapportioned after the full decennial census in 2010. Texas and Florida are expected to gain three seats each. Nevada, Arizona and Utah are likely to gain a seat. New York and Ohio are likely to lose two each, and Iowa, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts will also lose.

The exception to growth in the South was Louisiana, which even before Katrina was on track to lose a seat. This latest census estimate was conducted before the mass migration out of New Orleans so the state may yet still lose more clout.

The South did indeed rise again; 36 percent of the nation’s population lives there, putting it well ahead of the other regions _ the West with 23 percent, the Midwest with 22 percent and the Northeast with 18 percent. The three states that lost population between 2000 and 2004 were Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.

Over half the nation, 54 percent, lives in the 10 most populous states, a concentration that could grow as the Census bureau found that over half, 52 percent, of the population growth from 2004 to 2005 occurred in just five states, Florida, Texas, California, Arizona and Georgia.

For the 19th straight year, Nevada grew at the fastest rate followed by Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Utah, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Delaware _ the only state outside the South and West among the top 10 _ and Oregon.

The 2010 reapportionment will mark a significant shift in the national political balance of power. We can only hope that redrawing the new congressional districts will be in the hands of dispassionate, nonpartisan bodies that will end the politically self-serving practice of carving out noncompetitive, one-party districts.

For what’s worth, the population as of last July 1 was 296.4 million. We should hit the 300 million mark sometime in 2007.

Experts give various reasons _ weather, jobs, affordable housing _ for the exodus out of the Northeast and Midwest, but is there any way to reverse that migration. We like Ohio Republican chairman Bob Bennett’s idea. He told the AP “if you ever banned air conditioning, I think people would flock back.”

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)