Why did I go to Plato, MO you ask…? Why, it is the current (Mean) Center of Population for the United States, as determined by the 2010 Census – of course! The site moves every 10 years, having started in Maryland in 1790, moved pretty much due west to southern Indiana in 1940, then shifting southwest to it’s current location. As the population builds on the west coast, and as more people get air conditioning and move south (seriously!), the center drifts and drifts. In 2000 it was near Cuba, MO. The actual GPS coordinates put this site a little east and north of town (in or near Rock Creek). This marker was in downtown Plato (pop. 109) between the high school (Go Eagles!!) and the Post Office (zip code 65552).
This “Mean” Center is determined kind of like balancing a cookie sheet with an equal unit of weight for each person in their particular location at a particular point in time. This differs from the “Median” Center of Population, currently in Indiana, which has an equal number of people above and below, and left and right of that point. I’ll have to ponder this while I drive as to why they aren’t in the same place (perhaps the reason is obvious…).