Oklahoma's population grew by almost 9 percent in the last decade as the state added 300,000 residents, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday.
The latest population count meant Oklahoma had 3,751,351 residents on April 1. That's up from 3,450,654 people in the 2000 Census. The state slipped one place in the rankings and is now the 28th-largest in the nation.
Oklahoma has shown a healthy rate of growth during the last decade, said Deidre Myers, director of research and economic analysis with the state Commerce Department. Those coming to the state have been attracted by stable home prices and a low cost of living.
â€œOklahoma has had sustainable growth,â€ Myers said. â€œWe haven't had bubbles like Nevada or Arizona, which causes problems with infrastructure and other things. We haven't been experiencing decline like the states with economic woes.
â€œOur growth patterns fall right in line with the kind of economic growth and wage growth we've had.â€
Nationally, the country added 27.3 million people between 2000 and 2010. The nation's population was 308.7 million on April 1, up from 281.4 million a decade ago. That reflected a growth rate of 9.7 percent, the slowest rate since 1940.
California, with 37.2 million people, continues to be the country's most populous state. At the other end of the scale, Wyoming is the least populous state with 563,000 people.
Along with state and national population totals, the Census Bureau released the latest numbers of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under that process â€” called apportionment â€” Oklahoma remained at five House seats. The state lost a seat after the 2000 Census.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said redrawing congressional districts in Oklahoma likely would be a lot less contentious than a decade ago. That process ended up in court because then-Gov. Frank Keating, a Republican, and the Democrats in the Legislature disagreed on the boundaries.
â€œIt won't be a â€˜life-or-death situation' like we had in 2001 and 2002,â€ Cole said.
â€œOf course, the final decisions lie with the Legislature and the governor.â€
Cole said he expects minor changes among existing congressional district boundaries.
â€œThe current lines generally make a lot of sense,â€ Cole said. â€œThey don't split many counties, and where they do, there are good reasons like including military installations.â€
8 states gain seats
Texas was the big winner in the latest apportionment, gaining four seats in the House to bring it to 36 seats. Florida added two seats. The Rust Belt states of New York and Ohio each lost two seats. In all, 18 states will trade 12 House seats ahead of the 2012 elections.
Keith Gaddie, a redistricting expert and political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, said the south and west continue to be winners in both population gains and political power.
â€œIf you look at the states where seats were lost, they are mainly being lost in states where Barack Obama won,â€ Gaddie said. â€œThey're mainly being gained in states where Obama lost, or where Obama is probably going to lose in 2012.â€
Gaddie said Republicans control the redistricting process in most of the states that gained House seats.
Oklahoma, which grew 8.7 percent in the last decade, was No. 16 on the list for adding a House district, Gaddie said. With the latest population numbers, the House of Representatives would have to increase to 451 members for Oklahoma to gain a seat. It has been set at 435 members since 1911.
In February and March, the Census Bureau will release population and racial breakdowns so states can work on redrawing the boundaries for legislative districts.
Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, co-chairman of the state House steering committee on redistricting, said early estimates point to the addition of about 2,300 people per House district. Most House districts had about 34,000 people at the time of the last census.
The new data likely will show a continuation of the trend of faster growth in suburban Oklahoma City and Tulsa and slower growth in many rural areas.
â€œThat in itself dictates that the lines are going to change, and especially in some rural areas, quite drastically,â€ DeWitt said. â€œIt brings new districts into urban areas, as well.â€
Legislative redistricting leaders have held several public meetings to gather input from residents and to educate them on the redistricting process. More meetings are planned for early 2011.
â€œAt the end, the lines are going to change, and not everybody's going to be happy, but we're going to be as fair as we can and do the best we can,â€ DeWitt said.
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, co-chairman of the Senate's redistricting committee, said committee members and staffers are preparing for the new data to be released next year.
â€œClearly we have to draw fair and legal lines where the population lives,â€ Jolley wrote in an e-mail. â€œWhile there is additional population in the two metro areas, we will continue to have a healthy representation from rural areas as the census data will likely show.â€
Legislative leaders and Gov.-elect Mary Fallin must agree on a state legislative redistricting plan by the end of the 2011 session in May. New lines for congressional and county districts are supposed to be finished before the candidate filing period for the 2012 elections.