U.S. population growth slowed over the last decade to its lowest rate since the Great Depression. The U.S. population is aging rapidly, as baby boomers have started to hit retirement age, while challenging economic circumstances caused many younger Americans to postpone having a family — and this was before the pandemic made conditions even more difficult.
While the U.S. population increased in the past decade, albeit at a slow pace, some areas reported population decline, mostly due to people moving away. As people move away to either retire or to take on a new job, natural population increase has not been enough to offset net migration losses. Nearly every state has at least one county where the population declined significantly from 2010 to 2020 — in some cases by well over 10%.
To determine the fastest shrinking county in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on population from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates Program. Counties were ranked based on the total population change from 2010 to 2020.
There are four states with no counties that experienced population decline from 2010 to 2020 — Delaware, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Washington. All but Hawaii rank among the fastest growing states. There are 11 states with a county that reported a more than 14% decline in population from 2010 to 2020. Nine are located in the South.
Economic opportunity — or lack thereof — can be a major factor that causes people to relocate. Most of the fastest shrinking counties in every state have an unemployment rate and a poverty rate greater than or equal to that of the state itself. Other factors, like prevalence of violent crime, lack of recreational activities, and other less desirable qualities can be factors that cause residents to leave an area in droves. These are the worst counties to live in every state.