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The country experienced the second-slowest population growth in history, but resident shifts have seven states losing House seats, including California for the first time, and six capturing seats (two for Texas, the most).
The population in the United States from 2010 to 2020 grew at the second-slowest rate in history, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
That growth rate—7.4%, bringing the population of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to 331,449,281—“is only slightly more than the 7.3% increase between 1930 and 1940,” Ron Jarmin, acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said during a virtual press conference announcing the results of the 2020 census.
Initial results from the census, a population count conducted once per decade as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, were expected in December but were delayed due to collection issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic and several natural disasters. Census results are used to apportion federal funding for a host of state and local measures, including education, transportation and infrastructure, as well as to determine each state’s representation in Congress.
The decade’s slow growth rate is part of a longer trend of declining population expansion that began in the 1960s and, save for a blip in the 1990s, continued uninterrupted, according to research from the Brookings Institution. Experts have attributed that downturn to declining birth rates, an aging population and an overall decrease in immigration, and census officials said Monday the results were largely within expectations.
“Most states are within 1% of our population estimates, which makes us feel very good about those census counts,” said Victoria Velkoff, the census bureau’s associate director of demographics.
Regionally, population grew fastest in the South (by 10.2%), followed by the West (9.2%), the Northeast (4.1%) and the Midwest (3.1%), Jarmin said. According to the data, the 10 most populous states were California (39.5 million residents), Texas (29.1 million), Florida (21.5 million), New York (20.2 million), Pennsylvania (13 million), Illinois (12.8 million), Ohio (11.8 million), Georgia (10.7 million), North Carolina (10.4 million) and Michigan (10.1 million).
The smallest states by population were Wyoming (576,851 residents), Vermont (643,077), Alaska (733,391), North Dakota (779,094), South Dakota (886,667), Delaware (989,948), Montana (1.08 million), Rhode Island (1.1 million), Maine (1.4 million) and New Hampshire (1.4 million).
Only three states lost residents: Illinois, Mississippi and most notably West Virginia, which saw a population decline of 3.2%, Jarmin said. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, also lost residents, dropping 11.8% percent to a total population of 3.3 million. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, grew its population by 14.6%, while Utah was the fastest-growing state, increasing its population by 18.4% to 3.3 million people.
The data released Monday will be used for apportionment, the process by which the federal government determines each state’s representation in the 435-seat House of Representatives. Per the population count, six states gained a total of seven seats (two in Texas, one each in Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon), while seven states lost seats (Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and, for the first time, California).
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Monday she had delivered the apportionment numbers to President Biden, who will transmit them to Congress. Census officials will continue to release data in the coming months, including the local area counts that states will use to redraw their legislative boundaries.
“Due to modifications to processing activities, Covid-19 data collections delays, and the Census Bureau’s obligation to provide high-quality data, states are expected to receive redistricting data” by mid-August, with additional toolkits delivered by the end of September, the bureau said in a statement.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.