The U.S. population in 1880 was just over 50 million people which is about what South Korea’s is today. According to the 2020 Census, that number has grown to 331 million.
The Census also provides a way to measure how the U.S. population center has moved. It recently published “Mean Center of Population for the United States: 1790 to 2020.” In 1880 the center was where the Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana borders met. It moved to Missouri in 1980 and was in the western part of the state in 2020.
To determine the state where the population has grown the most since 1880, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed historical population data from 1880 to 2020 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census of Population and Housing and centers of population data. States are ranked by the change in population from 1880 to 2020. While 1880 is the first year of data for almost all states, it is 1890 for Oklahoma, 1930 for Hawaii, and 1960 for Alaska.
Arizona’s population soared from a bit over 40,000 to a current 7.2 million between 1880 and 2020, a 176.8-fold increase. And that’s for a territory that didn’t become an official state until 1912.
Arizona became a territory in 1846 when the U.S. seized the area from Mexico. When silver and copper deposits were found in the state in the 1870s, Arizona’s population climbed from 10,000 in 1870 to 122,000 by 1900. But the state’s population really took off during World War II, when military bases and defense installations were established there, a study by the University of Washington notes.
Completed in 1936, the Hoover Dam also ushered in an era of growth in the Phoenix area. And the invention of air conditioning made Arizona’s unbearably arid climate more palatable for newcomers, spurring its in-migration.
Further west and north, Washington state recorded the second highest population growth among states between 1880 and 2020. The Pacific Northwest state’s population grew from 75,000 to 7.7 million, a 102.6-fold hike.
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