Special Report

This State Had the Biggest Population Drop in the Past 10 Years

The U.S. census has been conducted once every decade since 1790. The first results of the 2020 survey were released in April, and they show that the country’s population grew over the previous 10 years at the second-lowest pace in history, increasing by 7.4%, to 331,449,281 — about half the rate it grew by in the previous ten years, during which the last millennials (the largest generation in American history) were born.

While U.S. population growth regularly topped 30% in the 1800s, the last time the U.S. exhibited growth above 20% was prior to World War I. The only time the U.S. population grew at a slower rate than in the 2010s was in the wake of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

That era also saw a redistribution of the population around the country, as impoverished families packed up and moved to greener pastures — sometimes literally, considering that the Dust Bowl turned swaths of America into arid wasteland. Some rural areas in Oklahoma and Texas, for example, experienced population declines of 25% while California’s population jumped nearly 22% in the 1930s.

In the 2010s, Americans continued to migrate to the country’s South and West. Traditional migration magnets California and New York have been losing out to the Sunbelt states of Florida and Texas. California just gave up a population-linked congressional seat for the first time in 170 years, while Ohio, New York, Colorado, Montana and Oregon also lost political influence in the House of Representatives. Florida and North Carolina each gained a seat while Texas gained two.

Our analysis includes the resident population for the 50 states, as ascertained by the Twenty-Fourth Decennial Census under Title 13, United States Code, and counts of U.S. military and federal civilian employees living overseas (and their dependents living with them overseas) allocated to their home state, as reported by the employing federal agencies. Overseas is defined as any location outside the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. The apportionment population excludes the populations of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

West Virginia had the largest population drop in the last 10 years. Here are the details:

> Pct. change in population, 2010-2020: -3.3%
> Resident population, July 1, 2010: 1,854,239
> Resident population, April 1, 2020: 1,793,716

Click here to see how every state’s population has changed since 2010.