Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday morning show that the District of Columbia’s population has climbed over the psychologically significant 600,000 level. The official population of D.C. is now 601,273, up from the oh-so-close 2009 estimate of 599,657 and the last official number, 2000’s 572,059.
In the first decade of this century, D.C.’s population rose for the first time since the 1950 census, when the twin booms of the growth of the federal government and the Second World War led to a 21 percent jump in 10 years, to a high of 802,178.
The 600,000 mark is important because of Washington’s strange place as the biggest little city in the United States. D.C. is really not a large city by population -- places like Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Worth, Texas, have more people -- but because of Washington’s place as the center of government of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation, we tend to attract a lot of culture, money, and influence that similar-sized cities do not.
Washingtonians like to compare themselves to New Yorkers, not Milwaukeeans -- though in terms of sheer numbers, the latter is more accurate.
But while topping 600,000 is a nice ego boost, there’s a downside: There are now 29,214 more District residents without congressional representation now than there were 10 years ago. The Census doesn’t change that. As Washington City Paper’s Mike Madden said on Twitter, “D.C. neither gains nor loses House seats. Something about ‘can’t divide by zero,’ I think.”
While D.C. may still be smaller than Indianapolis or Memphis, D.C. Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta points out that the District still has more people than Wyoming -- nearly six percent more, in fact -- but Wyoming has two senators and one member of Congress, while D.C. has none.
The Census data will not have much impact in Maryland or Virginia, either. Maryland’s population grew by nine percent over the past decade, from 5,296,486 to 5,773,552; Virginia’s population boomed by 13 percent, gaining nearly one million, from 7,078,515 to 8,001,024.
But the official U.S. population grew by 9.7 percent, hitting 308,745,538 this year, and neither Maryland nor Virginia gained enough to get any new seats in the U.S. House. Neither state will lose seats, either: Maryland keeps eight seats, Virginia keeps 11.
What will change? The Congress as a whole is likely to become more Republican. GOP-leaning states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah will each gain one seat, while Texas will get four more. Democrat-friendly Massachusetts and New Jersey will each lose a seat, while New York will lose two.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC