What's up (and down) with state populations


While I was preoccupied by the Christmas season, the Census Bureau released its estimates of the populations of the 50 states for 2005. The estimates are for the population as of June 30; I make comparisons below with census totals for April 1, 2000. So we can look back at the population growth in the states over the last five years with a reasonable assurance that the figures are close to right. I have calculated the percentage growth figures from the total numbers provided by the Census Bureau, so there is a possibility I have made a calculation error; I will be grateful to any reader who points out such an error.

Growth 2000-2005. Every state except North Dakota and the District of Columbia grew between 2000 and 2005, but growth continues to be very uneven. Nationally, the population increase was 5.3 percent, but only seven states grew at a similar rate—South Carolina (6.1 percent), New Hampshire (6 percent), New Mexico (6 percent), Alaska (5.9 percent), Hawaii (5.3 percent), Tennessee (4.8 percent), and Minnesota (4.3 percent). Fourteen states grew more than 6.3 percent; 29 states grew by less than 4.3 percent.

The big population gainers were, generally, the states that had the highest percentage growth from 1990 to 2000. The gainers are clustered in the West: Nevada (20.8 percent), Arizona (15.8 percent), Utah (10.6 percent), Idaho (10.4 percent), and Colorado (8.5 percent) and in the South Atlantic: Florida (11.3 percent), Georgia (10.8 percent), North Carolina (7.9 percent), Delaware (7.6 percent), and Virginia (6.9 percent). You can see in these numbers the robust growth of boom metro areas such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Florida's Gold Coast and I-4 Corridor, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Boise, and the Carolina Piedmont.

In the East, only two states registered above-average growth: Delaware (7.6 percent) and New Hampshire (6.0 percent). Demographically, these are largely suburban states; economically, Delaware has no sales tax and New Hampshire no sales or income tax. Growth was minuscule in Massachusetts (0.8 percent), Pennsylvania (1.2 percent), and New York (1.5 percent).

All midwestern states registered below-average growth. The biggest gainers were Minnesota (4.3 percent) and Missouri (3.7 percent). The laggards were North Dakota (-0.9 percent), Ohio (1 percent), Iowa (1.4 percent), and Michigan (1.8 percent).

In the South there is a vivid contrast between the booming South Atlantic and Texas (9.6 percent) and the interior states. Tennessee (4.8 percent) and Arkansas (4.0 percent) had relatively robust growth; Louisiana (1.2 percent) very little. As these are June 30 estimates, they don't register the population losses in metro New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina.

In the West every state grew by above-average rates except Montana (3.7 percent) and Wyoming (3.1 percent). The Rocky Mountain states tended to grow more than the Pacific Coast states, though the coastal states were all above the national average: California (6.7 percent), Oregon (6.4 percent), Washington (6.7 percent).

In the 1980s we tended to see a rapidly growing Sun Belt and a lagging Snow Belt. The picture in 2000-2005 is a little different: a population boom in the South Atlantic and the arc running from Texas through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and lagging growth in the Northeast and the Mississippi Valley.

These numbers are mostly good news for Republicans. The average population growth in the 31 states carried by George W. Bush was 5.6 percent. The average population growth in the 19 states and the District of Columbia carried by John Kerry was 3.9 percent. These averages are not population-weighted; you can do that arithmetic yourself if you want to. I suspect the contrast would not be much different.

Another way to look at these numbers is to see where the greatest population changes in absolute numbers occurred. Overall, the national population increased by almost 15 million (14,988,498). More than half of that population increase occurred in just five states—California (2,260,499), Texas (2,008,148), Florida (1,807,486), Georgia (886,123), and Arizona (808,660). Population growth in all of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (1,047,657) and in the five-state midwestern industrial bloc of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin (1,001,410), was only slightly more than population growth in Georgia alone (886,123) and not much more than half the population growth in Florida (1,807,486).

Internal and international migration. The Census Bureau provides data that differentiate internal and international migration of people over age 5 in 2005. Total net internal migration is of course zero; total international migration in 2000-2005 was 6,333,941. Most states had positive net migration, i.e., more people moving in than out: the exceptions were Massachusetts (73,741), New York (334,093), the District of Columbia (32,932), Ohio (102,088), Michigan (42,183), Illinois (63,011), Iowa (11,754), Kansas (19,541), Nebraska (4,007), North Dakota (14,881), and pre-Katrina Louisiana (69,373). But the patterns of internal and international migration were very different.

For internal migration, the two big losers were New York (1,001,100) and, perhaps surprisingly to many readers but in line with the 1990s trend, California (664,460). New York's internal population loss was almost precisely the same as Florida's internal migration gain (1,057,619), while California's internal migration loss was almost precisely the same as the internal migration gain of Arizona and Nevada (679,105). That's not to say that all these internal migrants went to Florida, Arizona, and Nevada, but you get the idea.

Net internal migration from the eastern states and D.C. was massive (1,438,356), although the three northern New England states and Delaware and Maryland scored gains. The net internal migration from the midwestern states was large (870,231), though Missouri and Wisconsin made small gains. All southern states had net internal migration gains except Oklahoma and pre-Katrina Louisiana and Mississippi; the region's total net gain was 2,043,096. All western states had internal migration gains except California, Utah, Hawaii, and Alaska. But because of California's net internal out-migration, total net internal migration gain in the West was only 248,019. The primary centers of net internal migration gain are the South Atlantic states (1,741,338) and the Rocky Mountain states (784,527).

All states made gains from international migration. But nearly half of all international migration gains were in four states—California (1,415,879), New York (667,007), Texas (663,161), and Florida (528,084). Still, international migration is changing the demographics of many states. In the East only three small states—Maine, New Hampshire, and Delaware—had greater internal migration than international migration. In the midwest only Missouri did (retirees heading to the Ozarks?). In the South, the picture was different: Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas had more internal migration than international; in Texas it was the other way around.

The biggest changes are in California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, which are losing many people by internal migration and gaining by international migration. Essentially they are gaining high-education whites and low-education immigrants and losing middle- and low-education whites. This tends to make their electorate more Democratic: the high-income professionals in metro Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Boston vote perhaps even more heavily Democratic than the immigrants to those states, while the more modest-income whites who are moving out are more evenly split between the parties. (For an interesting illustration of this effect, see baroneblog on the voting behavior of Mercer County, N.J.) Liberals like to bemoan what they consider a trend toward a two-tier society, with very rich professionals serviced by low-income immigrants. But that's a trend that's most pronounced on their home turf. It's less of a factor in the rest of the country. You see a variant on the theme in the Great Plains. Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa have gained more from international migration than they have lost from internal migration: Latinos are moving in to staff the big meatpacking plants, while young whites are leaving for opportunities elsewhere, leaving behind a relatively elderly white population. So in places like Dodge City, Kan., most public school pupils come from Spanish-speaking homes.