US population growth continues at near historic lows

The Great Recession remains a drag on immigration and birth rates

People take the oath of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony in New York, May 17, 2013.
John Moore/Getty Images

Population growth in the United States continues at near-historic lows — more evidence that the nation’s recovery from the recession is dragging.

The U.S. population is at 316,128,839, a 0.7 percent gain of fewer than 2.3 million people from July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013, according to Census Bureau estimates released today.

“This decade continues to be the slowest growth decade since the Great Depression,” said Robert Lang, an urban affairs professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

The Great Recession, which ended officially in September 2010, has slowed immigration and birth rates. Recent fertility data from the National Center for Health Statistics show no evidence of an uptick in U.S. births, a result of people’s delaying having children and of an aging population.

Despite the housing bust and a significant slowdown in migration to Sun Belt states during the recession, states such as Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Texas continue to grow at a much faster rate than Rust Belt states in the Northeast and Midwest.

“The Northeast and Midwest are growing at a rate that looks like European growth — slowly,” Lang said.

Reports of the demise of Sun Belt boom states may have been greatly exaggerated.

Texas and Florida gained together almost more people (387,000) than the entire Northeast and Midwest combined (398,000), said Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C.

“Nevada continued to grow at roughly the same rate as last year,” said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey institute.

Nevada (with 2.8 million more residents) and Arizona (6.6 million) grew faster than the nation as a whole.

North Dakota’s oil boom brought the state the largest percentage growth in the U.S.: 3.1 percent, to 723,393. The state has gained more people since 2010 than it did during the entire previous decade, Johnson said.

New York, which has been in danger of slipping to the fourth-largest state, barely hung on to its No. 3 spot, with 19.6 million people. Florida is right on its heels, with 19.3 million.

New York is growing again largely because fewer people are leaving in search of better jobs and climates. In bad economic times, people are less likely to move out of state.

“New York is hanging in there,” Lang said.

But because the numbers are from July 1, “Florida may have likely passed them by now,” Mather said.

Florida, hard hit by the housing collapse, is recovering slowly. It added 232,000 people in the 2012–13 year, a smaller gain than in the heady 2000s, when Florida added, on average, 282,000 people a year, Johnson said.

Nothing is messing with Texas’ growth. The second-most-populous state (26.4 million) is growing faster than the rest of the nation. The state was spared much of the setbacks of the recession because of its strong energy sector and diversified economy.

Population shrank in two states: Maine and West Virginia. There are more deaths than births in those states, young people are leaving, and very few people are moving in.

The Census Bureau projects that the U.S. population will be at 317.3 million on New Year’s Day, up 0.7 percent from the year before. In January 2014, one birth is expected every 8 seconds and one death every 12 seconds.

The projected world population on Jan. 1 is 7,137,577,750, a 1.1 percent increase of almost 78 million people. In January 2014, 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths are expected worldwide every second. India added 15.6 million people over the one-year period, leading all countries, followed by China, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

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