U.S. Population Change in the Last Decade, by State
The U.S. is the third most-populated country in the world, behind only two Asian giants of China and India respectively. But within the country, a lot can change in 10 years, and populations are especially mutable in nature.
As people moved in and out of certain areas for both lifestyle and economic reasons, which U.S. state populations fluctuated the most?
Drawing from the latest Census Bureau data, we look at how each state’s resident populations evolved over the past decade. But first, a blast from the past.
Historical Trends: U.S. Population Since the 1930s
Population growth trends in the U.S. have been closely tied to the economic ebbs and flows experienced by the nation. In one stark example, the country’s 10-year population growth rate plummeted to just 7.3% due to the Great Depression.
This was later offset by the post-WWII “Baby Boom”, during which birth rates soared once more, bumping up the population 10-year growth rate to 18.5% in the 1950s. The Baby Boomer generation now wields the most influence over the U.S. economy and society thanks to the favorable economic conditions in which they were born.
However, U.S. population growth rates recently hit new lows—the slower pace in the 2010s is rivalling that of the 1930s. According to Brookings, there area few factors at play:
- Falling fertility rate
- An increase in deaths (aging population, overdose deaths)
- Lower immigration rate
With all this in mind, how does the current landscape of the U.S. population by state look?
The Entire U.S. Population by State in 2020
The U.S. experienced 7.4% population growth between 2010-2020, which equates to the addition of 22.7 million people.
An impressive one-tenth of this growth occurred in California, and it remains the most populous state, rising above 39.5 million people in 2020. The SoCal megaregion—Los Angeles and San Diego—alone contributes more than $1.4 trillion to global economic output.
|Area||2020 Census Resident Population||Numeric Change (2010-2020)||% Change (2010-2020)|
|District of Columbia (Territory)||689,545||87,822||14.6%|
|Puerto Rico (Territory)||3,285,874||-439,915||-11.8%|
*Note: U.S. total and 10-year percentage change includes District of Columbia but excludes Puerto Rico
Overall, there’s been a significant shift in population towards the Sun Belt region (stretching from Southeast to Southwest), where 62% of the U.S. now resides. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest gainers and decliners over time.
Gainers: Utah, Texas
Utah saw the quickest population growth rate of 18.4% in the last decade. Drawn in by strong economic prospects, net migration into the state is balancing out a decline in births. What’s interesting is that 80% of Utah’s population is concentrated in the Wasatch Front – a metro area anchored by Salt Lake City and the chain of cities and towns running north and south of Utah’s largest city.
A little further south, Texas swelled by almost 4 million residents in the last 10 years. Much of this growth took place in the “Texas Triangle”, which contains Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. This booming region of the country contributes over $1.2 trillion to global economic output.
Decliners: West Virginia, Puerto Rico
West Virginia lost the most people in a decade, seeing a numeric population decline of 59,278. This may be explained by an aging population—16% of West Virginians are 65 years old and above.
When territories are also taken into account, Puerto Rico saw the biggest percentage decline of 11.8%, or close to 44,000 people over 10 years. Many of them moved into the mainland, and especially into Florida, after two hurricanes hit the island in 2017.
Full Speed Ahead: States Competing On Forward Momentum
By 2025, California will be home to five of the fastest-growing urban U.S. cities. The unstoppable growth of the tech industry in Silicon Valley is partly behind this, as many people flock to the West Coast to fill the shoes of highly skilled jobs required.
But could Silicon Valley one day lose its steam? Current and projected population growth in Texas is bolstering its tech potential too—in fact, it’s been dubbed the next “Silicon Hills”, with many tech companies from SpaceX to Oracle choosing to camp out in Austin instead.
Ranked: The Most and Least Livable Cities in 2022
Which cities rank as the best places to live worldwide? This map reveals the world’s most and least livable cities.
Ranked: The Most and Least Livable Cities in 2022
Pandemic restrictions changed the livability of many urban centers worldwide as cultural sites were shuttered, restaurant dining was restricted, and local economies faced the consequences. But as cities worldwide return to the status quo, many of these urban centers have become desirable places to live yet again.
This map uses annual rankings from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to show the world’s most livable cities, measuring different categories including: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
A Quick Note on Methodology
The ranking attempts to assess which cities across the globe provide the best living conditions, by assigning a score on 30 quantitative and qualitative measures across the five categories with the following weightings:
- Healthcare (20%)
- Culture & Environment (25%)
- Stability (25%)
- Education (10%)
- Infrastructure (20%)
Of the 30 factors within these categories, the qualitative ones are assigned as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable, or intolerable by a team of expert analysts. Quantitative measures are given a score based on a number of external data points. Everything is then weighted to provide a score between 1-100, with 100 being the ideal.
Ranked: The 10 Most Livable Cities
Of the 172 cities included in the rankings, many of the most livable cities can be found in Europe. However, three of the top 10 are located in Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.
Vienna has been ranked number one many times, most recently in 2019. According to the EIU, the Austrian capital only fell out of the top slot during the pandemic years because its famous museums and restaurants were shuttered.
Only one Asian city, Osaka, makes the top 10 list, tying with Melbourne for 10th place. Notably, not a single U.S. city is found in the top ranks.
Editor’s note: Two cities tie for both the #3 and #10 ranks, meaning that the “top 10” list actually includes 12 cities.
Ranked: The 10 Least Livable Cities
Some of the least livable cities in the world are located across Africa and Central Asia.
|#167||Port Moresby||🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||38.8|
Many of the least livable cities are within conflict zones, contributing to the low ratings. However, these regions are also home to some of the world’s fastest growing cities, presenting many opportunities for ambitious residents.
The Biggest Changes in Ranking
Let’s take a look at the cities that moved up the global rankings most dramatically compared to last year’s data.
Moving Up: The 10 Most Improved Cities
|City||Country||Overall Rank||Rank Change|
|Los Angeles||🇺🇸 US||#37||+18|
Here’s a look at the cities that fell the most in the rankings since last year’s report.
Moving Down: The 10 Cities That Tumbled
|City||Country||Overall Rank||Rank Change|
|Wellington||🇳🇿 New Zealand||#50||-46|
|Auckland||🇳🇿 New Zealand||#34||-33|
According to the report, a number of cities in New Zealand and Australia temporarily dropped in the ranking due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It’s also worth noting that some Eastern European cities moved down in the rankings because of their close proximity to the war in Ukraine. Finally, Kyiv was not included in this year’s report because of the conflict.
Urbanization and Livability
As of 2021, around 57% of the world’s population lives in urban centers and projections show that people worldwide will continue to move into cities.
While there are more amenities in urban areas, the pandemic revealed many issues with urbanization and the concentration of large populations. The stress on healthcare systems is felt most intensely in cities and restrictions on public outings are some of the first measures to be introduced in the face of a global health crisis.
Now with the cost of living rising, cities may face pressures on their quality of life, and governments may be forced to cut spending on public services. Regardless, people worldwide continue to see the benefits of city living—it’s projected that over two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050.
Ranked: The 20 Countries With the Fastest Declining Populations
Population decline is a rising issue for many countries in Eastern Europe, as well as outliers like Japan and Cuba.
Visualizing Population Decline by Country
Since the mid-1900s, the global population has followed a steep upwards trajectory.
While much of this growth has been concentrated in China and India, researchers expect the next wave of growth to occur in Africa. As of 2019, for example, the average woman in Niger is having over six children in her lifetime.
At the opposite end of this spectrum are a number of countries that appear to be shrinking from a population perspective. To shed some light on this somewhat surprising trend, we’ve visualized the top 20 countries by population decline.
The Top 20
The following table ranks countries by their rate of population decline, based on projected rate of change between 2020 and 2050 and using data from the United Nations.
|6||🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||18.2%|
|18||🇲🇰 North Macedonia||10.9%|
Many of these countries are located in or near Eastern Europe, for reasons we’ll discuss below.
The first issue is birth rates, which according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), have fallen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Across the region, the average number of children per woman fell from 2.1 in 1988 to 1.2 by 1998.
Birth rates have recovered slightly since then, but are not enough to offset deaths and emigration, which refers to citizens leaving their country to live elsewhere.
Eastern Europe saw several waves of emigration following the European Union’s (EU) border expansions in 2004 and 2007. The PIIE reports that by 2016, 6.3 million Eastern Europeans resided in other EU states.
There are two geographical outliers in this dataset which sit on either side of Europe.
The first is Japan, where birth rates have fallen continuously since 1970. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that the country’s overall population began to shrink.
By the numbers, the situation appears dire. In 2021, 811,604 babies were born in Japan, while 1.44 million people died. As a result of its low birth rates, the island nation also has the world’s highest average age at 49 years old.
The Japanese government has introduced various social programs to make having kids more appealing, but these don’t appear to be getting to the root of the problem. For deeper insight into Japan’s low birthrates, it’s worth reading this article by The Atlantic.
The second country is Cuba, and it’s the only one not located within the Eastern Hemisphere. Cuba’s fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman is the lowest in the Latin American region. It can be compared to countries like Mexico (2.2), Paraguay (2.5), and Guatemala (3.0).
Cuba’s immigration is also incredibly low compared to its neighboring countries. According to the International Organization for Migration, immigrants account for just 0.1% of its total population.
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