What’s All This Talk About Plato? Just Ask Wikipedia.

My respect for Wikipedia increases every day.  There was a time in its early days when I scoffed at someone who relied on it for answers.  It was clear that, while a number of serious, committed individuals were spending incredible amounts of time bringing “the facts” to the public, there were others just as committed to altering “the facts” to reflect their view of the world – or just to play with those last minute term paper writers.

However, my recent forays into the world of Wikipedia have just amazed me with their accuracy, and, more importantly, their incredible up to the minute updates.  Take, for example, the fact that I can already get Detroit’s 2010 population and ranking – 713,777 and 18th.

Well, there has been a great deal of talk in demographic circles of late about Plato.  Let’s go to Wikipedia and try to understand why.

Plato was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.”

Well, that doesn’t seem to be very demographic, does it?  Let’s try another entry.

Plato is an incorporated village in northwestern Texas County, Missouri, United States. It is located about twenty miles northwest of Houston and ten miles south of Fort Leonard Wood on Route 32. Plato had an estimated population of 1,430 in 2000. The community was founded in 1874 and is named after the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It is the birthplace of screenwriter Josh Senter who is known for his work on Desperate Housewives (oh boy!).  As reported in early 2011, Plato is the 2010 Mean center of United States population.

Ah ha!  Wikipedia does it again!

Indeed, once the results were in from all States (Michigan being one of the last to be released), the Census Bureau could determine the country’s Center of population.  The Plato location marks the 4th straight decade that the population center has been somewhere in Missouri, and represents a move of 23.4 miles from the 2000 Center and a trip of 872.9 miles from the first Center in 1790 – Chestertown, Md.   States that have been honored to house the Census of Population over the years have been Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri.  Kansas will probably have to wait until 2030 before Missouri relinquishes the title.

While I am unable to locate a Center of population for the State of Michigan (next task for Wikipedia), I can tell you that the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) has just located the 2010 Center in SE Michigan as falling in a “single-family residential neighborhood one block south of Nine Mile Road just west of Evergreen,” in the City of Southfield.  This represents a northwestern movement of .75 miles from a Southfield parking lot north of 8 Mile and east of the Southfield Freeway.

This marks the end of another scintillating lesson in the wonderful world of demography.  A lesson that has probably been added to Wikipedia as I type.