Population decline is common in U.S. states and countries around the world. Where one population declines, another population increases elsewhere. Population decline has several adverse effects, including 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 are moving rapidly. This is likely because 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. Florida, unsurprisingly, has one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S.
Some research indicates that taxes, primarily property taxes and income taxes, influence people’s moving decisions. For the people worried about income taxes, Alaska, Florida, 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 who property taxes 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.
States with Population Loss
In 2019, 10 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 cause concern.
For example, between 2010 and 2018, West Virginia’s population fell by about 47,000 people or around 2.8%. 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.
1. West Virginia
- Population loss: 12,144 people
- Population: 1.8 million
- Percent of population: 0.67%
- Population loss: 3,594 people
- Population: 731,000
- Percent of population lost: 0.49%
- Population loss: 51,250 people
- Population: 12.67 million
- Percent of population lost: 0.4%
4. New York
- Population loss: 76,790 people
- Population: 19.45 million
- Percentage of population lost: 0.39%
- Population loss: 4,721 people
- Population 1.42 million
- Percent of population lost: 0.33%
- Population loss: 10,896 people
- Population: 4.65 million
- Percent of population lost: 0.23%
- Population loss: 6,233 people
- Population: 3.57 million
- Percent of population lost: 0.18%
- Population loss: 4,871 people
- Population: 2.98 million
- Percent of population lost: 0.16%
- Population loss: 369 people
- Population: 624,000
- Percentage of population lost: 0.06%
10. New Jersey
- Population loss: 3,835 people
- Population; 8.88 million
- Percent of population lost: 0.04% )