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Go West, young man

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Here’s something for the stats geeks out there: The Census Bureau yesterday officially named Plato, Mo., as the mean center of the U.S. population. What exactly does that mean, you ask? Well, if the United States was a flat, weightless plate (and assuming all 308 million citizens weighed the same), Plato would be the point at which the US would balance perfectly.

Technically it’s a spot 2.9 miles east of Plato, population 109. (And if you really want to be a stickler about it, it’s at 37.517534 degrees north latitude, 92.173096 degrees west longitude.) The center shifted 23.4 miles westward over the last decade, and since 1790 has moved 873 miles from its original spot in Chestertown, Md. The Census Bureau posted a nifty interactive map, which we’ve embedded below, showing how the population center has shifted over the last 220 years. It’s particularly interesting to see how its path feinted north after the Civil War, but by the mid-20th century was definitely trending southward.

The Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also unveiled a commemorative “geodetic control mark” planted near the official center, which will serve as a reference point for mapmaking and charting infrastructure.

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