EDITORIAL: Population growth

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s comparatively slow population growth (and in some censuses, losses) has cost the state four U.S. House seats in the past century, from a peak of eight in the early 1900s to four today.
The new U.S. Census count doesn’t indicate Mississippi will lose another seat after this year, as it did after the 2000 Census, but it is not hard to see that if population gains in states like Georgia, Florida, Texas, and South Carolina continue at the pace of the past decade, an additional seat could be eliminated if Mississippi’s rate remains in the low single digits.
The doctrine of one-person, one-vote requires that all U.S. House districts nationwide fall within a specific population range. When states add proportionately more people and the division for House districts is made the slow-growing states like Mississippi sometimes can’t keep pace, and the number of districts is reduced.
Four times in the past century Mississippi has lost seats with a new Census: 1933, 1953, 1963, and 2003. Before the one person, one vote decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 1960s some rural states like Mississippi got by with disproportionately large delegations, but since the Reynolds vs. Sims ruling the population standards have been enforced.
Spurring population growth isn’t a matter of overnight development, but it is not possible to separate strong economic growth from population increases.
A simple scan of the Mississippi map shows where population growth has been significant, and it parallels economic opportunity.
Population losses, as in the Mississippi Delta, reflect absence of opportunity and/or economic decline. Our state has not latched on to the kind of economic magnets that drive significant population growth statewide.
An economy supporting massive numbers of good jobs has driven population growth in states like Florida, Georgia and Texas.
Texas, continuing into a seventh consecutive decade of growth, will gain four House members in 2012. Florida will gain two, while Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington each gain one.
States losing seats include Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The Mississippi Economic Council released a survey on Tuesday indicating that business leaders think our state is ready to move to another level in economic strength.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who is MEC’s chairman, said the survey found “very notable and important positive increase in confidence among business leaders …”
That’s a necessary component in resolving long-term growth issues; an encouraging attitude is basic for progress.