The population of the United States rose steadily since 1970. In 1970 it stood at 203 million; in 2009, it totaled about 306 million, an increase of more than 40 percent over the past three decades. The slowest growth rate was in the 1970s. The fastest growth rate was in the 1990s.
In each decade since 1970, the South has been the region with the greatest population growth in sheer numbers. With a total population of 100,236,820 in 2000, the South has more than 35 million more people than the next most populous region. The South is defined for census purposes as having three divisions: the South Atlantic, the East South Central, and the West South Central. The most populous of these divisions, accounting for just over half of the total, is the South Atlantic, composed of Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The second division, accounting for about one third of the total, is the West South Central, composed of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. The smallest division is the East South Central, composed of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The second most populous region, with a population of 64,392,776, is the Midwest, though its growth rate from 1970 to 2000 was the third slowest. In the 1970s the growth rate in the Midwest was 4 percent. During the 1980s it had a growth rate of 1.4 percent, before rebounding in the 1990s and posting a 7.9 percent increase. The Midwest is composed of the East North Central and the West North Central. The largest division, with over two-thirds of the population, is the East North Central, which includes the states of: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The West North Central includes Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.
The third most populous region is the fastest-growing in percentage terms. Prior to 1990, the West was the smallest region in terms of population. By 2000, with a population of 63,197,932, the West was just short of surpassing the Midwest. to an enormous population growth rate, the West will surpass the Midwest by 2010. The West grew 24 percent in the 1970s, 22.3 in the 1980s, and 20 percent in the 1990s. The West is composed of the Mountain and Pacific divisions. The Mountain division contains the states of: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. The Pacific division includes Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii.
The least populous region, and the one with the slowest growth rate, is the Northeast. Surpassed by the West in 1990, the Northeast had a population of 53,594,378 in 2000. The Northeast posted a growth rate of 1.6 percent in the 1970s, 3.4 percent in the 1980s, and 5.5 percent in the 1990s. The Northeast includes the New England and Middle Atlantic divisions. The larger of the two, the Middle Atlantic is made up of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The New England division includes the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
According to the 2000 census, the five fastest-growing states in the 1990s, by percentage increase, are all in
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