Mississippi to keep four seats

Published 11:48 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2010

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi will hold onto all four of its congressional seats, based on new census figures, but the state’s population growth over the last decade has been less than stellar, an expert says.

Unless the state experiences accelerated growth over the next 10 years, at least one congressional seat could be in jeopardy after the 2020 Census, said Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

The U.S. Census Bureau released figures Tuesday showing Mississippi’s population grew by 4.3 percent between 2000 and 2010 — a gain of 122,639. The state’s population is 2.96 million.

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Wiseman said Mississippi isn’t keeping pace with other states in the South, such as Texas, Florida and Georgia, which gained congressional seats because of population growth. Neighboring Louisiana lost a seat.

“It’s not enough to plod ahead at the rate we’re going now. What people don’t understand is, other places are growing faster,” Wiseman said. “You may be going the speed limit and somebody else is doing 80 and pretty soon they’re out of sight. That’s the way the census formula works.”

Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann had a different interpretation of the census figures.

“The latest figures released by the Census Bureau track a national trend of growth in the southern states. Mississippi’s population increase of 4.3 percent since 2000 shows our state is no exception to that rule,” Hosemann said in a statement.

“Mississippi is a great place to work, raise a family, and have an excellent quality of life. It appears the rest of the nation is beginning to recognize these traits as well,” Hosemann said.

Census calculations will help determine how government funds are divvied among communities, and each state’s representation in Congress.

After the 2000 Census, Mississippi lost one of its five U.S. House seats because population growth was slower than many other states during the 1990s.

There had been early concerns the state’s 2010 count would be hurt by the flight of residents in the aftermath Hurricane Katrina, but Wiseman said many of those who moved away from the Gulf Coast after the storm settled in other parts of the state.

Wiseman said Mississippi has to become attractive to grow its population. He said the focus should be on the education system and job creation.