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Chart: The Population Rank of Every U.S. State Over 100 Years

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The Population Rank of Every U.S. State Over 100 Years

The Population Rank of Every U.S. State Over 100 Years

“Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Popularized by Horace Greeley, the editor of the New-York Tribune, these words formed one of the great catchphrases at the height of the Manifest Destiny era in the 19th century.

Although that period is still a few chapters back in the history books, the fact is the West Coast is still relatively new today. Los Angeles was only incorporated in 1850, Portland in 1851, and Seattle in 1869.

And throughout the 20th century – Americans were moving westward in droves, ultimately culminating in California taking over the title of the most populous state in the union by the year 1960.

Population Rank by State

Today’s visualization is a bump chart from Aaron Penne, and it shows the population rank of U.S. states and D.C. over the timeframe of a century (1917-2017) using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

When a state passes another in population in a given year, it “bumps” the other state from that place in the ranking. Big movers are also highlighted in orange (up) and black (down) on the graph.

Let’s look at the numbers for the first year on the graph, which is 1917:

RankStatePopulation (1917)
#1New York9,993,000
#2Pennsylvania8,578,000
#3Illinois6,313,000
#4Ohio5,510,000
#5Texas4,563,000
#6Massachusetts3,738,000
#7Missouri3,470,000
#8Michigan3,451,000
#9California3,171,000
#10New Jersey2,976,000
#11Indiana2,910,000
#12Georgia2,885,000
#13Wisconsin2,587,000
#14North Carolina2,546,000
#15Kentucky2,421,000
#16Iowa2,382,000
#17Alabama2,361,000
#18Tennessee2,331,000
#19Minnesota2,329,000
#20Virginia2,313,000
#21Oklahoma1,960,000
#22Mississippi1,820,000
#23Lousiana1,795,000
#24Kansas1,748,000
#25Arkansas1,737,000
#26South Carolina1,675,000
#27West Virginia1,439,000
#28Maryland1,428,000
#29Connecticut1,327,000
#30Washington1,287,000
#31Nebraska1,285,000
#32Colorado910,000
#33Florida895,000
#34Maine777,000
#35Oregon763,000
#36North Dakota661,000
#37Rhode Island606,000
#38South Dakota599,000
#39Montana505,000
#40New Hampshire447,000
#41Utah444,000
#42Idaho413,000
#43District of Columbia385,000
#44Vermont372,000
#45New Mexico361,000
#46Arizona311,000
#47Delaware222,000
#48Wyoming186,000
#49Nevada81,000

New York led the pack with just short of 10 million people, which made up 10% of the population of the country as a whole. Meanwhile, California had only 3.2 million people – and amazingly, Nevada only had 81,000 people in 1917.

Now let’s jump forward 50 years to 1967, when the U.S. population was closer to 200 million.

RankStatePopulation (1967)
#1California19,176,000
#2New York17,935,000
#3Pennsylvania11,681,000
#4Illinois10,947,000
#5Texas10,599,000
#6Ohio10,414,000
#7Michigan8,630,000
#8New Jersey6,928,000
#9Florida6,242,000
#10Massachusetts5,594,000
#11Indiana5,053,000
#12North Carolina4,952,000
#13Missouri4,539,000
#14Virginia4,508,000
#15Georgia4,408,000
#16Wisconsin4,303,000
#17Tennessee3,859,000
#18Maryland3,757,000
#19Minnesota3,659,000
#20Louisiana3,581,000
#21Alabama3,458,000
#22Washington3,174,000
#23Kentucky3,172,000
#24Connecticut2,935,000
#25Iowa2,793,000
#26South Carolina2,533,000
#27Oklahoma2,489,000
#28Mississippi2,228,000
#29Kansas2,197,000
#30Colorado2,053,000
#31Oregon1,979,000
#32Arkansas1,901,000
#33West Virginia1,769,000
#34Arizona1,646,000
#35Nebraska1,457,000
#36Utah1,019,000
#37Maine1,004,000
#38New Mexico1,000,000
#39Rhode Island909,000
#40District of Columbia791,000
#41Hawaii723,000
#42Montana701,000
#43New Hampshire697,000
#44Idaho688,000
#45South Dakota671,000
#46North Dakota626,000
#47Delaware525,000
#48Nevada449,000
#49Vermont423,000
#50Wyoming322,000
#51Alaska278,000

In just half of a century, California gained 16 million people, and jumped to the #1 spot in the process. That’s a 504% increase over its 1917 population.

The Largest Increases in Population

For a final table data, we’ll show you the 2017 state populations compared to the 1917 state populations.

The table is sorted by the percentage increase over the course of that 100 years of time.

RankStatePopulation (1917)Population (2017)% Increase
#1Nevada81,0002,998,0393,601%
#2Florida895,00020,984,4002,245%
#3Arizona311,0007,016,2702,156%
#4California3,171,00039,536,6531,147%
#5Utah444,0003,101,833599%
#6Texas4,563,00028,304,596520%
#7Colorado910,0005,607,154516%
#8New Mexico361,0002,088,070478%
#9Washington1,287,0007,405,743475%
#10Oregon763,0004,142,776443%
#11Delaware222,000961,939333%
#12Maryland1,428,0006,052,177324%
#13Idaho413,0001,716,943316%
#14North Carolina2,546,00010,273,419304%
#15Virginia2,313,0008,470,020266%
#16Georgia2,885,00010,429,379262%
#17Wyoming186,000579,315211%
#18New Jersey2,976,0009,005,644203%
#19New Hampshire447,0001,342,795200%
#20South Carolina1,675,0005,024,369200%
#21Michigan3,451,0009,962,311189%
#22Tennessee2,331,0006,715,984188%
#23Connecticut1,327,0003,588,184170%
#24Lousiana1,795,0004,684,333161%
#25Minnesota2,329,0005,576,606139%
#26Indiana2,910,0006,666,818129%
#27Wisconsin2,587,0005,795,483124%
#28Ohio5,510,00011,658,609112%
#29Montana505,0001,050,493108%
#30Alabama2,361,0004,874,747106%
#31Illinois6,313,00012,802,023103%
#32Oklahoma1,960,0003,930,864101%
#33New York9,993,00019,849,39999%
#34Kentucky2,421,0004,454,18984%
#35Massachusetts3,738,0006,859,81984%
#36District of Columbia385,000693,97280%
#37Missouri3,470,0006,113,53276%
#38Rhode Island606,0001,059,63975%
#39Arkansas1,737,0003,004,27973%
#40Maine777,0001,335,90772%
#41Vermont372,000623,65768%
#42Kansas1,748,0002,913,12367%
#43Mississippi1,820,0002,984,10064%
#44Nebraska1,285,0001,920,07649%
#45Pennsylvania8,578,00012,805,53749%
#46South Dakota599,000869,66645%
#47Iowa2,382,0003,145,71132%
#48West Virginia1,439,0001,815,85726%
#49North Dakota661,000755,39314%
#50Alaska739,795n/a
#51Hawaii1,427,538n/a

Not surprisingly, Nevada takes the cake with a 3,601% gain, going from 81,000 people to today’s 2,998,039.

Meanwhile, North Dakota had the smallest gain – it only added 14% more people over a whole century of time.

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Countries

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Türkiye0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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