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Plus: Seattle gig workers get paid sick leave; Chicago and Wisconsin go to the polls; California’s insulin experiment hits a bump; Big gaps in electric vehicle ownership; and more news you can use from around the country.
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It’s Friday, March 31, and we’d like to welcome you to the weekly State and Local Roundup. This week the Census Bureau released the latest population figures from counties nationwide, reflecting a return to pre-pandemic figures in some of the most populous counties following an exodus in 2021.
The population rise is largely owing to immigration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2022 estimates of population. If it weren’t for international migration, many of the largest counties wouldn’t have seen population increases. Some are still losing residents to suburbs, exurbs and other regions of the country like the Sunbelt.
More than one-half of all counties (52.5%) grew between 2021 and 2022, according to Census estimates. The largest counties, having populations at or greater than 100,000, mostly experienced population increases (68%); while the smallest counties nationally, those with populations below 10,000, experienced more population loss (60.8%) than gains (38.3%).
“The migration and growth patterns for counties edged closer to pre-pandemic levels this year,” Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s population division, said in a press release. “Some urban counties, such as Dallas and San Francisco, saw domestic outmigration at a slower pace between 2021 and 2022, compared to the prior year. Meanwhile, many counties with large universities saw their populations fully rebound this year as students returned."
Whitman County, Washington, was the fastest-growing county. Home to Washington State University, it saw its population drop by 9.6% between 2020 and 2021 but then grow by 10.1% last year. Whitman County’s change, the bureau reported, is just one example of the many college counties that saw a rebound in the last year after a lull during the pandemic.
Maricopa County, Arizona, remained the largest-gaining county in the nation, adding more than 56,000 residents in 2022, a gain of 1.3% since 2021. Harris County, Texas, had the next largest gain. Texas was home to six of the top 10 largest-gaining counties in 2022.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County had the largest population decline, decreasing by more than 90,000, continuing a downward trend as the state lost roughly twice that amount in 2021. Cook County, which includes Chicago and nearby suburbs, lost more than 68,000 people, according to the Census, although the agency has overestimated losses in the area before.
Population declines lessened for some other urban counties. New York County, which covers Manhattan, had a population decline of about 98,000 in 2021. Last year, it saw a slight gain in population.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the latest census numbers.
Death Rates Were Unusually High
An unusually large majority of counties experienced more deaths than births, according to the data. The figures cover a time period when Covid deaths were at their peak from July 2021 to July 2022.
“Overall, three-quarters of the nation’s counties experienced more deaths than births last year,” reported The New York Times. “In 2018, just 45% of counties had more deaths than births.”
Immigration Tripled in Top Counties
As immigration returned to pre-pandemic levels nationally, the number of immigrants moving to the nation’s 20 most populous counties from 2021 to 2022 helped boost population gains. Combined, these counties gained more than 300,000 new residents through international migration.
Immigration stabilized the population numbers in counties such as San Diego, Miami-Dade and King County, Washington (which includes Seattle). Without immigrants, those areas would have seen population decreases.
Sunbelt Boom Continues
All 10 of the top fastest-growing counties were in the South or West. And the census data shows that metro areas in the Sunbelt, including Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and Tampa, continued to draw a large share of Americans who relocated.
The biggest gains in population occurred in medium-sized metropolitan areas—those with populations of 250,000 to under 1 million. These counties increased by about 511,000 people.
Rural Population Grew Slightly
It was small, but the number of people living in rural counties grew by 56,000 from 2021 to 2022. That’s an increase of 0.12%, compared to the rest of the nation, which saw a population increase of 0.38%.
“But even slight growth is a stark contrast to declines in rural population that occurred from 2011 to 2016,” reported The Daily Yonder.
Make sure to come back here every Friday for the week’s highlights. If you don’t already and would prefer to get it in your inbox, you can subscribe to this newsletter here. Have a great weekend.
News to Use
Trends, Common Challenges, Cool Ideas, FYIs, and Notable Events
- Gig worker benefits. Most gig workers in Seattle now have paid sick leave and paid safe time, or PSST, thanks to a law signed by Mayor Bruce Harrell on Wednesday. That makes Seattle the first jurisdiction in the country to create these types of benefits on a permanent basis for app-based workers. The new law broadens and secures policies put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic that were set to expire on April 30.
- Right-to-work reversal. In another (sort of) first, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed a measure last Friday to repeal the state’s right-to-work law that currently allows workers in the state to not pay union dues or fees. Just over half of all the states have right-to-work laws in place. With the stroke of her pen, Whitmer made Michigan the first state in nearly 60 years to abandon the policy opposed by labor advocates. The governor also signed a law reinstating prevailing wage practices that require union-level wages and benefits for state-funded construction projects.
- Midwest elections. Former President Donald Trump’s indictment threw another wrinkle in the Chicago mayoral race that ends on Tuesday, April 4. Progressive Brandon Johnson tried to tie Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools chief, to Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, during a debate Thursday. The former Republican president is deeply unpopular in Chicago and had to cancel a 2016 campaign rally there. Meanwhile, Wisconsin voters will also go to the polls Tuesday to decide the balance of the state supreme court, which could affect issues such as redistricting and abortion. The stakes are so high that both Politico and The New York Times have called the high court contest the biggest election in 2023.
- Going big on “school choice.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed into law one of the largest private school voucher expansions in the nation, following similar moves by several other conservative states. The legislation makes all Florida students eligible for taxpayer-financed vouchers to attend private schools—a roughly $8,500 reimbursement. Critics say the law will hurt an under-funded public education system while not requiring private schools to adhere to accountability requirements that traditional public schools must meet. Some Democrats called it a taxpayer supplement to wealthier parents with kids already enrolled in private education.
- This is who doesn’t own EVs. A statewide analysis of ZIP codes revealed a strikingly homogenous portrait of who owns electric vehicles in California: Communities with high concentrations of electric cars are affluent, college-educated and at least 75% white and Asian. In contrast, electric cars are almost nonexistent in Black, Latino, low-income and rural communities, according to CalMatters. A separate analysis of nationwide data also revealed a gender gap in EV ownership. It found that in the first half of 2021, fewer than 30% of electric vehicles were purchased by women.
- California insulin complications. Last month, Vox’s Dylan Scott reported that California would spend $100 million to develop its own generic insulin. Under the plan, the state would build its own factory and staff it with public workers in order to sell insulin at the cost of producing it. But that effort may be in danger, reports The New York Times. The major drugmakers that the state was hoping to undercut—Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk—recently announced big price reductions of around 70% for their insulin products. It’s unclear whether California’s insulin will be that much cheaper than the big-brand names once the state’s generics arrive on the market.
- Suing the middlemen. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sued prescription drug middlemen, calling them “modern gangsters.” Yost accused pharmacy benefit managers of illegally driving up drug prices on insulin and other key medications. The anti-trust lawsuit alleges that three prescription benefit managers use their market dominance to bolster their bottom lines at the expense of independent pharmacies and people who need medication.
- Social media apps sued for “addicting features.” Following Utah’s first-in-the-nation law to restrict how minors can use social media apps, Arkansas sued Meta Platforms Inc. (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram), as well as TikTok Inc., and its parent company ByteDance. Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office said the companies violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Meta, according to Griffin’s lawsuit, is liable for the “manipulative and addicting features they deploy to hook young users and keep them on the platform.”
- An unlikely partner in suicide prevention. Gun retailers could be enlisted in suicide prevention work under a Republican proposal in Wisconsin. The bill would allow gun shops to provide voluntary gun storage for people at risk of suicide. It would also provide grants to train gun retail workers to recognize when a customer is in distress and to make suicide prevention materials available at gun stores and ranges. Suicides in Wisconsin increased by 40% from 2000 to 2017, and guns are the leading method of suicide, according to the state health department.
- Second-longest-serving elections official to retire. Maryland Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone—currently the second-longest-serving chief elections official in the nation—is stepping down from the post after more than 25 years. Credited with ushering Maryland’s elections system into the 21st century, Lamone has overseen the uniform modernization of voting machines statewide, centralization of control of local board operations, computerization of campaign finance reports and revamping of the state election code. “I love this job—it was not always easy—but through Republican and Democratic administrations, and through Covid, cyberthreats, redistricting, changing election dates, and changes in voting behavior, we delivered for the voters of Maryland.”
Picture of the Week
Whether it is debating laws at the State House or pinning opponents inside a Professional Wrestling Ring — I’m proud to be the progressive, people’s CHAMPION representing the working-class!https://t.co/ycLvuFVMqu— RI State Rep. David Morales (@DavidMoralesRI) March 28, 2023
David Morales is a state legislator now serving his second term in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. But in the wrestling ring, where he recently made his debut, he’s Commissioner Morales. At 24, he is considered one of the state’s most progressive Democrats. His wrestling alter ego follows a passion Morales developed growing up in Soledad, California. “To celebrate my one-year anniversary,” the commissioner told a jeering crowd before his first fight, “you all have the honor of witnessing my in-the-ring debut!”
What They’re Saying
“21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England living as of the date of this declaration.”
–A declaration passed by the old Disney-aligned board the day before Florida lawmakers voted to create a new board overseeing the company. The agreement basically neuters the new board, tying their hands from doing anything until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of King Charles. The agreement is expected to be challenged in court.
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