Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New estimates show US population keeps slowing, and Wisconsin's even slower than that

Right before we turn into 2020, we got new total US population figures from the Census for 2019. It shows that the population slowdown throughout the 2000s, which dropped below 1% a year in between 2000-2010, got even slower this year. And the reasons why include less of the birth-vs-death "natural increase", and the US gaining fewer people through immigration.
Drops in natural increase and net international migration have resulted in a gradual slowdown of the nation’s population growth this decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released today.

On the eve of the next decade, Vintage 2019 population estimates show the nation’s growth continues to slow: the U.S. population is at 328.2 million, up 0.48% since July 2018. Growth has slowed every year since 2015, when the population increased 0.73% relative to the previous year....

In 2019, natural increase dropped to 957,000, marking the first time in at least four decades that it slipped below a million, continuing the trend toward fewer births and more deaths.

International migration, the other source of population growth, has been gradually declining each year since 2016. Between 2018 and 2019, the nation’s population increased 595,000 due to net international migration, compared to 1,047,000 in 2016.
Well, if the Trump Administration had a goal of slowing down what the country was adding through immigration, I guess it's working. But it sure isn't going to help our economy grow.

The decline in "natural increase" comes from both a drop in the country's births, especially in the last 4 years, but also a steady rise in deaths throughout the 2010s.

And the Census Bureau noted that the "natural increase" doesn't even exist in a few states.
Four states experienced natural decrease (recorded more deaths than births) between 2018 and 2019: West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Going further into the state figures on population, let's look at Wisconsin in particular. Like most Midwestern states, our population growth is below the US rate, and like the rest of the country, it has slowed further in the 2010s. The Census says Wisconsin added 15,028 people in 2019, an increase of 0.26%, and the state has not added more than 20,000 people in a year for the entire decade.

In breaking down the reasons behind Wisconsin's 2019 increases in population, you can see that despite our state's birth rates falling to its lowest level in decades, we still are on track to have more people born than dead in this year (side note- just found out two of my 30-something Millenial friends are doing their part to reverse that trend in 2020). But our relatively low levels of foreign immigration, along with having more people move out of state than move in, adds up to a small amount of population growth.

In comparing the total change in population with our neighbors since 2010, two of these states (Michigan and Iowa) have been similar to Wisconsin in having relatively slow but consistent growth in the 2010s. But Minnesota had by far the best population growth of the region, with growth exceeding Wisconsin's by more than 200,000 people this decade. Conversely, Illinois' population has declined in each of the last 6 years due to people leaving the state.

Interestingly, Illinois' decline continues to keep Wisconsin's population growth going, as we have consistently gained FIBs in the 2010s, offsetting the losses Wisconsin has had to other states in 2018.

But we can't continue to count on that continuing in the 2020s, and seeing Minnesota's population jump like it has in this decade would seem to give a template that we should look into for stopping the demographic issues that are limiting our growth. The declines in Wisconsin's population haven't happened yet (as a whole state anyway, your community may be different), but you can see where it'll happen soon if we don't find a way to attract talent from other places.

We likely took the first step with the election of Tony Evers in 2018 to at least stop more regressive garbage from being put into law in this state. But there's a long way to go, and outside of the Madison area, there isn't a lot of new talent heading in. Tax cuts aren't going to do it - good jobs and a good quality of life will. And you know what else might make people consider Wisconsin in the 2020s? Not seeing this on Election Night in November.


  1. Of those 15000, I wonder how many are in Madison/Dane County. A third +, I'd guess.

    1. Likely, although we wont see the county-by-county numbers for a few months.

  2. Intelligent and public-service-oriented elected officials get the facts and act on them.
    Say these leaders become aware that the median age of residents is rising. The smart moves? They incentivize higher education in the health sciences, anticipating growth in the need for medical specialists. They legislate a program to forgive either all student debt or at least a portion of it for all health field graduates who remain in-state and practice in the health field for, say, six years.
    What just happened here? Smart legislators took a fact that had potentially negative consequences and made it a positive.
    Going a step further, legislators offer incentives for the creation of medical clinics that specialize in fields such as oncology, gerontology, occupational and physical therapy. The specialists attracted to the state to work in these clinics improve the quality of life not only in their professional capacities, but their professional pursuits support ancillary industries. Those medical professionals will need scrubs, supplies and the like, and suddenly the employees of these supporting industries are contributing to the economic growth of their local economies.
    If these GOP idiot-puppet legislators would get their heads out of their asses, and stop kissing the asses of one-percenters- ah, but THAT will never happen. This cabal of sociopaths needs to be driven from office, so that actual public servants can be elected to perform the peoples' business and act for their benefit.