Special Report

The Fastest Growing (and Shrinking) States

Source: Kirkikis / iStock

4. Connecticut
> 1-yr pop. growth rate: -0.23%
> Current population: 3.58 million
> 2015 population: 3.58 million
> 10-yr pop. growth rate: 1.68%

The population of Connecticut shrank by 0.2% in 2016, the fourth largest decline of any state. Connecticut’s population has declined substantially in recent years, and the state has lost a net total of approximately 20,000 residents since 2013. Many of those leaving Connecticut are young, college-educated professionals. Since 2010, the median age in Connecticut has risen from 40.0 years to 40.9 years.

The population loss has likely hurt the state’s economic potential. While the U.S. GDP grew by 12.1% from the second quarter of 2006 to the second quarter of 2016, Connecticut’s GDP fell by 3.7%, the largest contraction of any state over that time other than Nevada.

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock

3. Vermont
> 1-yr pop. growth rate: -0.24%
> Current population: 624,594
> 2015 population: 626,088
> 10-yr pop. growth rate: 0.27%

The population of Vermont declined by 0.2% in 2016, the third largest contraction of any state. Like most Northeastern states with population loss, the population decline was largely due to outbound migration. Approximately 2,00 more residents moved out of Vermont in 2016 than moved in, nearly the largest loss of any state when adjusted for population size.

Population growth was also stymied by the state’s low birth rate. Vermont’s birth rate has been on a fairly steady decline over the past three decades, and in 2016, there were just 6,035 births in Vermont — nearly the fewest of any year since the 19th century.

Source: Tiago_Fernandez / iStock

2. Illinois
> 1-yr pop. growth rate: -0.29%
> Current population: 12.80 million
> 2015 population: 12.84 million
> 10-yr pop. growth rate: 1.25%

While the population of Illinois has increased nearly every year in the past five decades, the state’s population declined in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The state’s population shrank by 0.3% in 2016, the second fastest pace of decline of any state. A large share of the population loss was due to residents leaving the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro area. In a survey conducted by the Chicago Tribune, residents who had moved out of the city in recent years cited high taxes, unemployment, poor weather, and violent crime as primary reasons for leaving Chicago. The population of Chicago decreased by 19,570 residents in 2016, more than half of the state’s overall population loss of 37,508 residents.

Source: BackyardProduction / iStock

1. West Virginia
> 1-yr pop. growth rate: -0.54%
> Current population: 1.83 million
> 2015 population: 1.84 million
> 10-yr pop. growth rate: 0.17%

West Virginia was the only state to see both negative natural growth — births minus deaths — and net migration loss in 2016. West Virginia, which has one of the oldest populations of any state, has the highest death rate and one of the lowest birth rates in the country. Approximately 2,700 more West Virginians died than were born in 2016, accounting for one-fourth of the state’s total population loss.

A bulk of the population loss was due to people leaving the state. Some of the leading push factors causing people to migrate out of West Virginia were possibly high unemployment and poverty. While the state’s unemployment rate fell from 6.8% in 2015 to 6.0% in 2016, it remains one of the highest of any state. Some 17.9% of the state’s population lives in poverty, the fifth largest such share in the country.. In total, West Virginia’s population decreased by about 10,000 residents in 2016, the most of any state relative to population size.

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