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Breaking Down the PA Census Numbers

By Chris Nicholas

The Census Bureau just released detailed numbers on our population and the new data confirms the main trend: central and eastern Pennsylvania are growing and the western part of the state is contracting.

In general this is better news for the GOP and worse news for Democrats.

Overall the state’s population increased a bit more than 3.5%, to 12.7 million but Pittsburgh’s population decreased by nearly 9%.  Ironically the state’s political leadership is shifting west even as its population is moving east. (Gov. Corbett and leaders of three of the four legislative caucuses are from western PA).

Let’s look at the three congressional districts that have grown the fastest since 2010 — the 19th (Cong. Platts), 16th (Cong. Pitts) and the 6th (Cong. Gerlach) — all are held by Republicans. And the three congressional districts that have contracted the most in the past decade — the 2nd (Cong. Fattah), 12th (Cong. Critz) and 14th (Cong. Doyle) — are all represented by Democrats.

A look at the state House also tells the same story. Census Data sifted through by Pittsburgh blogger Chris Briem ( shows that the 24th House district belonging to Pittsburgh Democrat Joe Preston, Jr. contracted the most (down 17%); the 13th District, held by frosh GOP’er John Lawrence of southern Chester County, has added the most new residents (up 27%).

Need more evidence of the population decline in the west: just three counties west of State College have grown — Washington, Butler and tiny Forest. The growth in the state is in the south central Pa-Lehigh Valley-Philly Burbs triangle; plus Centre County and the far Poconos (Wayne and Pike counties). Philadelphia actually had a small gain in population. (The Census Bureau’s in-depth map of the state’s population by county is available on our web site at

Looking deeper into the census numbers details the large increase in the state’s Hispanic population — no wonder then that Reading, Allentown and York all grew. Incredibly, more than 80% of the state’s total growth in the decade was driven by the Hispanic community.

What does all this mean for redistricting?

1. The congressional district the state is losing will almost certainly come from southwestern Pennsylvania.

2. On the state level, a handful of state House seats and likely a state Senate district will move from the western part of the state to the growth centers detailed above. Philadelphia will most likely lose some legislative seats and/or see more of its districts split between the city and suburban towns.

And finally, the new census figures have certified that Cameron County in NW PA now enjoys the distinction of being the state’s least populated county. Congrats to the 5,085 folks up there. Forest County, which had had that distinction forever, pushed its way up and is now the 65th most populous county in the Commonwealth (Sullivan is 66th).


Christopher Nicholas, a veteran Republican political consultant, is President of Eagle Consulting Group, Inc.

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