The U.S. South's population has boomed in this decade.
Last year, the Northeast and Midwest lost residents, and the West grew by an anemic 153,000 people, primarily because a large number of residents left for a different U.S. region. In contrast, the South grew by 1.3 million new residents, and six of the 10 U.S. states with the biggest growth last year were in the South, led by Florida , Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
Experts say the Southern allure has to do with a mix of housing affordability, lower taxes, the popularity of remote work during the pandemic era and baby boomers retiring. They're not sure if it's a short-term change spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic or a long-term trend, but that's something they're watching closely. Read AP 's story here. ADD LINK
The U.S. Census Bureau last month released state and regional estimates that reflected the population boom in the U.S. South from mid-2021 to mid-2022: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-kits/2022/2022-national-state-population-estimates.html.
Using these numbers, you can see the population changes in your state last year and during the decade, so far. Five tables are listed at the link, offering population estimates from 2020 through mid-2022, and ranking states and regions by population. The fourth Excel table, listing the “components" of population change is the most helpful in determining what drove the population change in your state last year.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF POPULATION CHANGE?
Population increases or decreases in two ways, either through migration, when people move to or from another place, or natural increase and decrease, when births outpace deaths or the reverse. Migration takes two forms, either domestic, when people move to or leave one state for another, and international, when residents leave for or arrive from another country. These make up “the components" of population change that the Census Bureau uses to update the population estimates each year. The Excel table mentioned above lists the components of change for each region and state — that is the number of births, deaths and domestic or international migrants.
— Last year, immigration drove population growth in the U.S., but that wasn't necessarily true in every state. Determine whether your state added or lost residents from mid-2021 to mid-2022. Also, look at whether there have been population gains or losses in your state since the last once-a-decade census in 2020.
— Overall population gains or losses don't tell the whole story. To get a better understanding, dig into the components of change to see what is responsible for the fluctuations in your state's population. For instance, deaths outpaced births in two dozen states last year, but only 18 states had overall population declines. That means six states avoided losing population solely because of migration. One of those states was Florida, which led the nation in natural decrease, yet still was the fastest-growing state in the U.S. last year because of tremendous domestic and international migration.
— If either domestic or international migration is a driving force, find out why and where people are going or coming from. Sometimes, the two types of migrations work against each other. For instance, California led the nation in new immigrants last year, but it also was No. 1 in the number of residents who moved to another state. Unfortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau hasn't yet released data on migration flows between states from 2021 to 2022, but you can find historic patterns here: https://www.census.gov/topics/population/migration/data/tables/acs.html.
— If natural increases or decreases are responsible for the population changes, dig into the reasons. Was it COVID-19? Drug-related deaths? A declining birthrate? Most states, like New York, have vital statistic departments that track births and deaths, and they can help you trace the reasons and see different patterns around the state.
— Sample a few communities in your state to see where the changes are most intense. Direct your reporting to people familiar with those communities and hone in on the reasons for the changes in the numbers you're seeing. Has the cost of housing changed dramatically? Did a major employer or industry set up shop or abandon the area?
WHO TO TALK TO
— Try talking to your state demographer about the population trends and how it's going to impact everything from infrastructure planning to school construction to state tax revenue. The State Data Center Program has a list of each state's demographer or lead contacts for demographic or economic research: https://www.census.gov/about/partners/sdc/member-network.html.
— Political scientists at local universities can offer some good perspective on how the population changes, if they continue, are going to impact the reallocation of political power when redistricting takes place after the next census in 2030.
— Economic development and business experts familiar with the local economy may be able to help pin down the reasons for the changes you're seeing.
Experts aren’t sure at this point if the dramatic pull of the South is a short-term change spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic or a long-term trend. Because of delays caused by the pandemic, changes were made in how the Census Bureau has calculated the estimates this decade, and that, too, may have had an impact. The Census Bureau explains those changes here: https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2022/comm/creating-the-vintage-2021-blended-base.html.
Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for its customers’ use. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at email@example.com.
Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP
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