By Jim Ellis
Jan. 3, 2017 — At the end of 2016, the Census Bureau released its population estimates for the period beginning July 1, 2015 through July 1, 2016. The bureau reports some interesting data. Utah had the largest percentage growth (2.02 percent) of any state during that time span, while Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, and five others actually lost inhabitants. The other major gainers were also in the west: Nevada (1.95 percent) and Idaho (1.83 percent).
The states gaining the most individuals when calculating on a raw number basis for the tested 12-month period were Texas (432,957), Florida (367,525), California (256,077), and Washington (127,710).
The Illinois net total of 37,508 people leaving the state is the highest such number in the nation by more than a factor of three. Surveys suggested that high taxes, a lack of economic opportunity, and poor weather were the top reasons for the exodus.
The current estimates through mid-2016 provide us better information about the population trends as we begin to prepare for the next census in 2020. The new hard data that will be available in the next zero-numbered year will provide the basis for determining congressional district apportionment for the decade beginning in 2021, and serve as the benchmark for re-drawing in the 43 states that have more than one CD.
The new numbers also provide us further clues as to which states will be gaining and losing congressional districts beginning with the 2022 election.
Previous studies suggested that Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia would gain, while Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia would lose seats. Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and California appeared to be on the cusp of gaining a seat.
The new numbers confirm most of these projections, but do add some new information. Though the simple calculations are rudimentary with a high error factor because the actual apportionment formula is quite complicated, it appears that Alabama will also join the states losing districts while Colorado would again be added to the gainers. Consistent gainers Florida and Texas would increase their congressional district totals by more than one. North Carolina, which almost added a seat in 2010, is a virtual lock to do so in 2020.
Arizona, which gained at least one seat in every decade since 1960, remains on the cusp to add another in 2020. Virginia, which appeared set to gain, has seen a slower growth pattern in the mid-decade years, and now is moving from a probable gainer to only being on the cusp. Two new states that now appear on the losing side cusp if their present trends continue to spiral downward are Connecticut and Nebraska.
Extrapolating the mid-decade patterns through the end of 2020, several states that will perhaps double the national population average increase but will still not gain a district are Idaho, probably Nevada since the state gained a seat in 1980, 2000, and 2010, South Carolina, Utah and Washington each of which also gained in 2010.
In the last census only one state, Michigan, actually lost people during the 2000-2010 period. If the present trends continue, four states: Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont, and West Virginia will have fewer people in 2020 than they did in 2010. Illinois and West Virginia are both sure to lose a seat. Connecticut, as previously mentioned, may now be on the cusp of losing one while at-large Vermont cannot drop any further.
Much can change in the latter part of the decade, and the actual census always changes the projections. It is clear, however, that the nation’s population continues to shift to the south and west, which will again be reflected in the coming reapportionment.