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Drops in the Natural Increase, and Net International Migration Resulted in 0.5% Annual Growth to 328.2 Million People

Monday, January 6, 2020

From Sandra Leigh Johnson

Drops in the natural increase, and net international migration, have resulted in a gradual slowdown of the nation’s population growth this decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates just released.

On the eve of the next decade, Vintage 2019 population estimates show the nation’s growth continues to slow: The U.S. population is at 328.2 million, up 0.48% since July 2018. Growth has slowed every year since 2015, when the population increased 0.73% relative to the previous year.

The current release of population estimates and components of change for the nation, states, and Puerto Rico illustrates changes from April 2010 through July 2019. 

Since April 2010, the population increased 19.5 million, or 6.3%, representing an average annual growth of 0.66% between July 2010 and July 2019, compared to an average of .97% last decade.

Population change at the national level stems from natural increase (the difference between births and deaths) and international migration (the movement of people into and out of the United States).

So far this decade, natural increase has been the largest source of population growth for the nation.

In 2019, natural increase dropped to 957,000, marking the first time in at least four decades that it slipped below a million, continuing the trend toward fewer births and more deaths.

International migration, the other source of population growth, has been gradually declining each year since 2016. Between 2018 and 2019, the nation’s population increased 595,000 due to net international migration, compared to 1,047,000 in 2016.

Regional Patterns

Population change at the national level does not necessarily reflect what is happening in states and regions. Growth is not evenly distributed across the United States, and factors contributing to population growth or decline vary across geographies.

Roughly 40% of the nation’s population lives in the South, the most populous region in 2019 with 125.6 million residents. Between 2018 and 2019, the Southern region had the largest numeric (1.0 million) and percentage (0.8%) growth.

Population gains in the South were mostly due to natural increase and domestic migration (the movement of people from one area to another within the nation).

During the same period, population declined in the Northeast by 64,000 residents, a 0.1% drop. 

This population decrease was due to net domestic migration, which offset gains from net international migration and natural increase.

Green indicates the states that have seen the greatest gains in population, while red indicates the states with the greatest loss of population.

State Patterns

Over a quarter of the nation’s population lived in just three states in 2019: California, Texas, and Florida.

Half of the nation’s population was concentrated in the 10 largest states:  California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan.

These states were also in the top 10 in Census 2010, and all but North Carolina were among the 10 most populous in Census 2000 as well.  

Not surprisingly, some of the states with the largest populations had the highest numeric growth between 2018 and 2019.

Texas added the most people (367,000), followed by Florida (233,000).

Some states were among the largest gainers but not the most populous: Arizona (added 121,000), Washington (91,000), Colorado (67,000), South Carolina (65,000), Tennessee (58,000), and Nevada (53,000). 

Growth in each of these states reflects the overall pattern of population growth in the Southern and Western regions of the country.

Eight states (Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina and Nevada) in the top 10 for numeric growth between 2018 and 2019 were also in the top 10 for percentage growth. 

Small but Growing

The list of states with the highest percentage growth also includes states with fewer than 5 million people that experienced significant growth relative to their population size.

Idaho, for example, ranked highest in percent growth with a 2.1% population increase, followed by Nevada, up 1.7%. Utah was fourth with an increase of 1.7%.

Domestic migration was the primary driver of growth in Idaho and Nevada. In Utah, natural increase was the leading factor. 

Population Losses

Ten states lost population between 2018 and 2019: New York, Illinois, West Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, Mississippi, Hawaii, New Jersey, Alaska, and Vermont.

West Virginia had the largest percentage decrease, down 0.7%, or 12,000 residents. New York had the largest numeric decrease, losing 77,000 residents (0.4%). 

Four states experienced natural decrease (recorded more deaths than births) between 2018 and 2019: West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

In Maine and New Hampshire, migration offset natural decrease, resulting in population gains.


Sandra Leigh Johnson is a demographer in the Estimates and Projections area of the Population Division.

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