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Slow-Growing State in Fast-Growing Part of Countrycomment (0)

January 10, 2013

By Jim Williams

The Census Bureau released its annual estimates of the populations of the 50 states in December. The numbers show that Alabama continues to be a slow-growing state in the fast-growing part of the country.     

According to the Census estimates, 190 million people reside in the 30 states located in the southern and western U.S. These states are often called the “Sun Belt” region, and they contain 60 percent of the nation’s population. In the past year the Sun Belt region accounted for an amazing 86 percent of the nation’s population growth.

Four southeastern states were among the growth leaders of the Sun Belt — Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The other fast-growing Sun Belt states were farther west. 

The remaining 123 million Americans live in 20 Northeastern and Midwestern states. This broad region grew at only one-fourth the rate of the Sun Belt and accounted for only 14 percent of the national population increase. Most states in the Northeast and Midwest grew at less than half the national rate.

Alabama ranks 23rd in size among the 50 states, with 4.8 million residents. The rate of population increase over the past year was about half the national average and below all but five of the Sun Belt states. This is not unusual: Alabama grew at a below-average rate over the last decade, for example. 

The Census Bureau also published information on the components of population growth during the past year. Some states increased due to net immigration, either from within the U.S. or from foreign countries; other states saw “natural” increases from the surplus of births over deaths.  

These patterns of growth are generally stable over time. Florida’s growth is primarily caused by the movement of people into the state. Utah has the highest rate of natural population increase. Texas benefits from both types of growth.  

Alabama is not high in either growth category. Our median age is above average, which holds down the natural growth rate, and the numbers of people who move into and out of the state are relatively balanced.

The Sun Belt states with population growth rates below Alabama’s in the past year were Arkansas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Jim Williams is executive director for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. 

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