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What Will the 2020 Census Reveal About America?

By: Shannon Patterson, CPR, CMSR
Kolbe Certified™ Consultant
Director of Practice Opportunities

The new census data will show us that our nation is experiencing stagnate growth, with an aging population and a declining birth rate. With fewer births, more deaths, and uneven immigration the 2010-20 decade was the smallest decade of growth in U.S. history including the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Let’s look at what factors have contributed to the slow growth rate in the U.S. population.

Declining Fertility Rates and More Deaths
Unfortunately, the past decade reveals a nation with unprecedented growth stagnation and a steep decline in the under-18 population. As our nation continues to age and baby boomers reach retirement, the gap between births and deaths narrowed with the number of births outnumbering deaths nationwide by fewer than 1 million for the first time in decades. Between 2010 and 2019, our millennial generation aged into adulthood resulting in an astonishing decline in our under-18 population, and the census projections indicate that our 65-and-over population will have a higher growth rate than our youth in the next decade. If any of you have listened to my lectures in the past you have heard me reference this as the “graying of America.” The newly released data shows that thirty states saw decade-wide population losses in their youth led by California which lost over 400,000. However, Texas gained more than 500,000 young people. We also saw four states Vermont, Maine, West Virginia, and New Hampshire have more deaths than births last year.

Our population growth not only comes from natural births but also from foreign immigration. The estimated number of people moving to the U.S. annually from other parts of the world has steadily declined in the last four years. In 2016, the final year of the Obama administration an estimated 1,046,709 people moved to the United States from abroad. In 2019 that number fell to 595,000 due to the federal restrictions during the Trump administration.

Our states also experience population growth and loss by “domestic immigration” or “out-migration” this is when residents move from one state to another. In the past decade, the Northeast lost 2.5 million residents who moved to other regions in the U.S., led by the state of New York which lost over 1.3 million residents over the past nine years. The second-largest exodus of residents due to out-migration is the Midwest, with over 1.6 million people relocating to other states. Of those 1.6 million, over 865,000 residents left the state of Illinois. California ranked third in out-migration losing over 912,000 residents but gained over 1 million foreign immigrates from abroad. Why did these states (California, New York, and Illinois) experience the biggest domestic out-migration shift in the nation? Demographers suggest that we saw this population shift due to the states’ high tax structure and unaffordable housing. Many of these residents relocated to other parts of the country that offered a better economy with lower taxes and affordable homes.

On the flip side, other states benefited greatly as residents crossed state lines. Texas takes the top spot gaining over 1.1 million domestically and another 818,000 coming from abroad since 2010. The state of Florida also saw tremendous growth with 1.2 million residents moving in from other states. Five other states grew by 15% including Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona. The data also shows that Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Dakota grew by 10%. States that experienced moderate growth included Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Montana, and Massachusetts – the only New England state to benefit from out-migration. Four states including West Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, and Vermont showed absolute population losses over the decade. The state of West Virginia exhibited population losses for seven years in a row, while Illinois and Connecticut did so for six years, and New York for four years.

What Do These Demographic Trends and New Data Show Us?
It certainly indicates that we have an aging workforce. Perhaps more impactful is the shifts in state populations that will likely have consequences when the U.S. congressional districts reappoint seats based on the new census data. After all, the constitutionally mandated purpose of the decennial census is to apportion members of the U.S. House of representatives in each state based on population. Right now, the projected redistribution of our population indicates that Texas could gain three seats and Florida could gain two. Five other states could gain one congressional seat including Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Montana, and both Carolinas. A whopping ten states are projected to lose a seat including; Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Alabama, and most notably California which could lose a congressional seat for the first time in history.

It also indicates that, over the next decade, the two factors that contributed to our nation’s slow growth rate – low birth rates and increased deaths – will continue as the population ages. As baby boomers continue to age into retirement our nation will depend on the youth populations to increase, which will most likely come from immigrants and their children. The census bureau projects that after 2030, immigration will account for more than half of our nation’s population growth. This means as we head into the next decade immigration is something, we should all pay attention to because it will be a vital contributor to our nation’s economic health. As our nation continues to age and our population growth stagnates, the 2020s will become a crucial period for all of us to understand the role of immigrants and how they fit into our society and workforce.

As an orthodontist, it is important to understand and pay attention to the changing patient population around your practice. For example, if your target market is based on adolescents watch the population shifts in your elementary and middle schools; if your target market is based on income and jobs in the area be aware of companies’ growth and/or relocation status; or if you experience a population boom from immigration understand those new resident’s ethnic background. As a practice owner understanding the population shifts and demographic character changes in your community is extremely beneficial if not crucial as it allows your practice to make adjustments in marketing for future patient acquisition.

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