Monday, December 30, 2013

Population numbers show slow Midwest growth

A lot of things can be sliced and diced from today's release of the Census' population estimates for 2013. But I figured I'd hone in on the Midwest and compare it to what's going on nationwide.

First of all, the country's population is estimated to be up 2.20% since the end of 2010, from 309.3 million to 316.1 million. It's a steady climb that stay's on pace for the population growth we saw in the last decade. And like we saw from 2000-2010, population growth in the Midwest has stayed slower than that, although how much slower changes based on the state.

First, let's look at how population changed in the Midwest in the 2000s.

Population change, 2000-2010
U.S. +27.3 million (+9.7%)
Ill. +411,339 (+3.3%)
Ind. +403,317 (+6.6%)
Minn +384,446 (+7.8%)
Wis. +323,311 (+6.0%)
Ohio +183,364 (+1.6%)
Iowa 120,031 (+4.1%)
Mich -54,804 (-0.6%)

So Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin were 1, 2, and 3 for largest rate of growth, Michigan and Ohio were the clear laggards, and Illinois added the most people (in no small part because it had the most people to begin with). Now let's compare that to what the Census estimates since the middle of 2010 to the middle of 2013.

Population change, 2010-2013
U.S. +9.8 million (+2.20%)
Minn +110,043 (+2.07%)
Ind. +80,937 (+1.25%)
Wis. +53,653 (+0.94%)
Ill. +42,440 (+0.33%)
Iowa +40,102 (+1.31%)
Ohio +25,373 (+0.22%)
Mich +19,473 (+0.20%)

Minnesota is a clear standout, adding nearly 30,000 more people than the next-closest state, and more than double 5 of the 7 states in the region (including Wisconsin). The big-population states of Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are especially slow, with all 3 in the bottom 7 of the U.S. (and the 4 slower states all have populations under 2 million), and this can really be illustrated when you compare the average change per year from 2010-2013 vs. the 10 years before then.

Per-year change in population, 2010-13 vs. 2000-10
Minn +36,681 ('10-'13)vs. +38,445 ('00-'10) (-1,764 4.6% slower)
Ind. +26,979 vs. +40,332 (-13,353 33.1% slower)
Wis. +17,884 vs. +32,331 (-14,447 44.7% slower)
Ill. +14,147 vs. +41,134 (-26,987 65.6% slower)
Iowa +13,367 vs. +12,003 (+1,364 11.4% faster)
Ohio +8,458 vs. +18,336 (-9,878 53.9% slower)
Mich +6,491 vs. -5,480 (+11,971, negative to positive)

So Michigan's declines have at least been reversed, even if the growth is extremely slow. Minnesota and Iowa is pretty much adding the same amount of people they were in the 2000s, and that's better than the other 4 states, which have seen the brakes get slammed on in growth- especially Ohio and Illinois. Wisconsin doesn't look that great either, especially when you consider the two states to our west (Minnesota and Iowa) have stayed level while we're adding barely more than half the people each year than we previously did.

Now some could theorize that cold weather is a deciding factor that applies nationwide....until you see that North Dakota, D.C., Utah, and Colorado are in the top 5 for growth rate nationwide, and the snow flies in all of those places, so throw that theory out. It appears that what helps is a low and declining unemployment rate. Minnesota and Iowa have by far the lowest unemployment rates in the region, each being below 5 percent. There seems to be some relationship to how bad a state got hit by the Great Recession, as Ohio, Michigan and Illinois all exceeded 10% for several months, but Indiana is an interesting exception to this rule, as they have continued to add people at a good rate (for the Midwest anyway), and that has continued as the state's unemployment rate has fallen to 7.3%. By comparison, Ohio and Michigan each saw drops in their unemployment rates by more than 3% from 2010-2012, but haven't seen their population grow like Indiana's (both Ohio and Michigan have seen their UE rates go UP from where they were at the start of 2012, going against the U.S. trend).

Wisconsin follows neither of these rules- we never got higher than 9.1% unemployment, but we're still sharply decelerating in our population growth. The contrast with Minnesota is especially noteworthy, and perhaps it shows that people value high quality of life and job opportunities over pro-corporate tax policy and lower wages (and think how big the gap would be if fast-growing St. Croix County wasn't in Wisconsin, but was in Minnesota, where many of its residents work).

This is more information-based than anything else, but continued slow population growth is a real economic and social issue when you start projecting what the Midwest will look like in 20 years. And destroying its strong traditions of good public education and rewarding hard work doesn't seem to be the way the way to reverse the trend.

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