States Suffering Multi-Year Population Losses

By at 3 January, 2019, 9:22 am

by Raymond J. Keating-

Nine states actually experienced a decline in population in 2018, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, eight of those states have now suffered an uninterrupted streak of multi-year population losses.

Consider the numbers regarding these eight states: 

● West Virginia has now lost population for six consecutive years – the longest current multi-year decline. In 2012, the state’s population stood at 1,856,764. But in 2018, it registered 1,805,832. That was a decline of 50,932, or 2.7 percent. That is the largest percentage decline among these states, and the third largest drop in terms of total numbers.

● Illinois has lost population for five straight years. In 2013, Illinois’ state population stood at 12,898,269. In 2018, it came in at 12,741,080. This population decline of 157,189 was the largest total drop among the states. That was the third largest percentage decline at 1.2 percent.

● New York has experienced a population decline in three straight years now. The population registered 19,661,411 in 2015, and was down to 19,542,209 in 2018. This drop of 119,202 was the second largest decline.

● Connecticut is on a five-year streak of declining state population. In 2013, the state population was 3,594,915. In 2018, it came in at 3,572,665. This 22,250 decline was the fourth largest.

● Louisiana has seen a decline in state population for two years running. The population registered 4,678,215 in 2016, and came in at 4,659,978 in 2018 – a decline of 18,237.

● Wyoming has experienced a three-year streak of declining state population, going from 585,668 in 2015 to 577,737 in 2018. That decline of 7,931 equaled a percentage drop of 1.4 percent, which was the second largest percentage decline.

● Hawaii has lost population for two consecutive years, declining from 1,428,105 in 2016 to 1,420,491 in 2018. That was a drop of 7,614.

● Alaska also has seen a two-year decline in state population, from 741,504 in 2016 to 737,438 in 2018 – a decline of 4,066.

The only other state to experience a decline in population in 2018 was Mississippi, after an increase in 2017.

Many factors come into play regarding changes in population. But one certainly is costs, and in turn, costs are affected by state and local public policies. Consider the Small Business Policy Index 2018: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which I write for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. It ranks the 50 states according to 55 different policy measures, including a wide array of tax, regulatory and government spending and performance measurements. On the Index, six of the eight states suffering from multi-year population declines ranked in the lower half of states – Hawaii at 48, New York at 47, Connecticut at 43, Illinois at 33, West Virginia at 29, and Louisiana at 27 – and one, Alaska, came in at a mediocre 25. Only one state, Wyoming ranked well (fourth) on the Index.

State and local lawmakers should be working to make their states attractive places to live, work, and invest in, build and operate a business – rather than giving people an excuse to live, work and engage in entrepreneurship elsewhere.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

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