The latest Vintage 2023 population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal a significant shift in population trends, marking a return to pre-pandemic norms. The key drivers behind this shift are a decrease in annual deaths and a reversion to migration patterns not seen since before 2020.

National Population Growth Overview

The United States gained over 1.6 million people in the past year, representing a growth of 0.5%, bringing the total population to 334,914,895. While this growth is historically low, it indicates a slight uptick from the 0.4% increase in 2022 and the 0.2% increase in 2021.

Kristie Wilder, a demographer at the Census Bureau, notes that the nation’s growth is fueled by the return of U.S. migration to pre-pandemic levels and a decline in deaths. Despite a decrease in births, the nearly 9% reduction in deaths, coupled with a rebound in immigration, resulted in the largest population gain since 2018.

The South emerges as the primary driver of the nation’s population growth, accounting for 87% of the increase in 2023. With an addition of over 1.4 million residents, the total population of the South stands at 130,125,290. Notably, the South is the only region to maintain population growth consistently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth in the South is attributed to migration patterns, with 706,266 people added via net domestic migration and nearly 500,000 through net international migration.

Regional Dynamics

  • Midwest Rebounds: After two years of decline, the Midwest experienced a moderate gain of 0.2%, adding over 126,000 residents. Factors contributing to this rebound include a lower rate of outmigration, increased international migration, a slowdown in population loss in Illinois, and growth in Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio.
  • Western Expansion: The West also expanded, adding 137,299 people to the region. Although slightly lower than the 2022 increase, higher international migration and fewer deaths were offset by higher outmigration to other regions. Notably, fewer Western states experienced population loss in 2023, with Alaska and New Mexico gaining population again.
  • Northeast Decline Slows: The Northeast’s population declined by 43,330 in 2023, considerably less than the declines in 2022 and 2021. New York and Pennsylvania were the only states to lose population, with reduced declines compared to the previous year.

In a notable shift, 42 states and the District of Columbia experienced an increase in population in 2023, up from 31 states in 2022 and 34 states in 2021. This increase reflects national trends of deaths and net international migration returning to pre-COVID levels, coupled with reduced net domestic outmigration in some states.

States that experienced population gains after losses in 2022 include New Jersey, Ohio, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Kansas, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Alaska.

Changing Landscape of Population Growth

The concentration of population growth in a few states has eased, signifying a broader distribution. In 2022, four southern states—Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia – accounted for 93% of the nation’s population growth. However, in 2023, this share reduced to 67%, indicating a more widespread distribution of growth.

Texas saw the largest numeric change, adding 473,453 people, followed by Florida with 365,205 residents. South Carolina and Florida were the two fastest-growing states, with 1.7% and 1.6% growth rates, respectively.

Georgia achieved a significant milestone as its population surpassed 11 million people in 2023, reaching a total of 11,029,227 after an increase of 116,077.

While Puerto Rico continues to experience a population decline, the rate has slowed. In 2023, the territory lost 0.4% of its population, totalling 14,422 people, compared to a 1.3% loss of 42,580 people in 2022.

Positive net migration in 2023, adding 1,872 people, marked Puerto Rico’s first year of migration growth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a 4.5% decline in births and a 2.8% increase in deaths resulted in a natural decrease of 16,294 residents, affecting overall growth.

In summary, the population trends in 2023 signal a return to pre-pandemic norms, driven by decreased mortality rates, rebounding immigration, and a more widespread distribution of population growth across states. These all seem like good news, but what are your thoughts?

How might the shifting patterns in U.S. population growth impact regional economies and infrastructure planning in the coming years?

As birth rates continue to decline while deaths decrease, what discussions and policy considerations should be explored at the national level to address potential demographic challenges, such as an aging population?

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