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Census data leave size of California congressional delegation unchanged as nation has slowest population growth since Great Depression

December 21, 2010 |  9:47 am

For the first time in nearly a century and only the second time in state history, California’s congressional delegation will not grow in the next decade, based on population figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

As it has since the last reapportionment 10 years ago, the state will continue to have 53 members in the U.S. House of Representatives.

California’s delegation did not lose or gain seats because its population grew at roughly the same rate as the rest of the nation. The state grew 10% between 2000 and 2010 to nearly 37.3 million residents. Nationwide, the country grew 9.7% to 308.7 million residents, the smallest rate of growth since the Great Depression.

In the reapportionment of congressional seats, the biggest winners were Texas, which gained four seats, and Florida, which gained two. The biggest losers were New York and Ohio, which each lost two.

These shifts reflect how population growth varied regionally, with the South and the West continuing a multi-decade trend of large gains, while growth in the Northeast and Midwest was anemic. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington also picked up seats, while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania lost seats.

The reapportionment of congressional seats occurs every 10 years after the census. After each state is guaranteed one seat in the House, the remaining 385 seats are divvied among the 50 states using a formula that is pegged to the rate of population growth.

The only other time California failed to gain a new seat in the House was after the 1920 census, when Congress decided not to change the size of any state’s delegation. Throughout much of the 20th century, California saw rapid gains in population that resulted in it routinely gaining multiple new members of Congress.

Despite its failure to add voices and votes on Capitol Hill, California will remain a powerhouse in Washington, boasting the largest population of any state and the largest delegation in Congress.
The census numbers released Tuesday are also used to determine how many electoral votes each state has, and to distribute more than $400 billion in federal dollars.

In California, more than a half-million people were believed not to have been counted in the 2000 census, resulting in the state losing $1.5 billion in federal funds between 2002 and 2012, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers. It’s unclear whether there was an undercount in California in the 2010 census.


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