Population decline is typical in U.S. states and countries around the world. Where one population declines, another population increases. Population decline has several causes and several adverse effects.
Some causes, as of late, include a global pandemic, alterations to the political landscapes, expansion of internet access, and changes in the workforce.
Some adverse effects include a lack of skilled workers, slower economic growth, and reduced representation in government because House of Representatives seats and Electoral College seats are tied to population.
Why Are States Losing Population?
In recent years, Americans have been moving rapidly. Over the last decade, many have recovered from the 2008 recession. Moving is expensive, so many families stayed in their current location and homes until their jobs became more secure and their finances improved. Additionally, the baby boomer generation is moving into retirement. This causes several southern states to see a population increase as retirees move towards warmer weather and lower costs of living.
But as workplace options expand and people have more and more abilities to work remotely, you also see population growth in larger, more rural states. According to Pew’s analysis of the 2020 census data, states like Idaho, Utah, and Montana had significant increases between 2020 and 2021.
But Florida, unsurprisingly, has had one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. over the last three decades.
Some research indicates that taxes, primarily property taxes and income taxes, influence people’s moving decisions. For the people worried about income taxes, Alaska, FloridaFlorida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming do not levy a state income tax.
When it comes to property taxes, it’s best to stay clear of New Jersey (2.47%), Illinois(2.30%), New Hampshire (2.20%), and Connecticut (2.11%), the four states whose property taxes are above 2%. Businesses also move across state lines because of taxes, labor costs, and worker shortages. When companies leave a state, they take their jobs with them. This can cause more people to move to the new state and slow the economic growth of the states the businesses left.
How States Combat Population Loss
Even though there is some benefit to living in each state, some states have recognized that they might be lagging behind. For example, Maine has started offering tax incentives for college graduates that move there. West Virginia has been steadily losing residents over the last decade and is shifting its focus to attracting remote workers. If you are considering moving, be sure to look for incentive programs that could either ease your transition or play a factor in the state you choose.
States with Population Loss
In 2020-2021, 19 U.S. states saw population loss, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In a few states like New Jersey and Vermont, a year of population loss isn’t much of a concern as both states had several years of population growth, making the decline a one-off. However, in states like West Virginia and Illinois, populations have declined for most of the last ten years and are causing concern.
For example, between 2010 and 2020, West Virginia’s population fell by about 59,000 people or around 3.2%. This is due to a combination of more deaths than births and net migration. The state had 19,000 more deaths than births and 27,000 more people leaving the state than moving in.
The cost of living is a significant factor in why people move out of a state. Of the ten states that saw population declines last year, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey are among the ten states with the highest cost of living. Below are the ten states that experienced population loss in the past year. States are ranked by the percentage loss of their total population.
The pandemic also created a lot of population changes as people fled both populated and more regulated regions. Between 2020 and 2021, New York saw a decrease of 1.58%, and Illinois saw a population decrease of 0.89%, or 18,124. However, most states that saw a population loss during 2020-2021 saw slight population growth in the following year.
The following states are ranked by the biggest decrease in population between 2020 and 2021 based on data from Pew’s analysis of the 2020 Census results.