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Hot Potatoes: Idaho Saw Most Growth Last Year

Idaho led a quartet of far Western states in adding population last year, growing by 2.2 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau says.


We, as in Americans, are moving to the West.

Idaho was the fastest growing state in the nation last year, though there seems to still be plenty of room. While it grew by 2.2 percent, thanks mostly to domestic migration, Idaho still only has 1.7 million people.

Idaho just outpaced Nevada, which saw 2 percent population growth, Utah, which grew by just under 2 percent, and Washington State, which saw 1.7 percent growth. Florida was the only non-Western state in the top five in growth: it grew by 1.6 percent, same as Arizona.

The figures are contained in the Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates, released Wednesday.

It’s mostly Americans moving from other states that is pushing the population higher in the fastest-growing places.

“Domestic migration drove change in the two fastest-growing states, Idaho and Nevada, while an excess of births over deaths played a major part in the growth of the third fastest-growing state, Utah,” Luke Rogers, Chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Branch, said in a statement.

But unlike during the Great American Westward Expansion, the new growth in the Western states isn’t coming entirely from the East. Large numbers of people have moved from California to Idaho. A 2015 Census report said one in four people moving to Idaho was coming from California, and there’s no sense that’s changed much. More than half of Idaho residents were born somewhere else.

Idaho isn’t just drawing people fleeing California’s high real estate prices. Outdoors enthusiasts discovered the state’s natural treasures decades ago – but the increase in media attention to its outdoor wonders – and the ability to telecommute – has boosted the outdoor adventure migration in recent years.

While Idaho saw the biggest percentage growth, Texas actually led the country last year in growth in the real number of people, growing by just under 400,000 people. And while Californians may be moving to Idaho, they’re being replaced. California added the third largest number of people last year growing by about 240,000 in population. Florida was second in the sheer number of new people, adding nearly 330,000.

Texas, Colorado and Oregon also saw high percentage growth last year.

The largest states in the nation remain California, Texas, Florida, and New York. With large numbers of people moving out of Illinois, it has now fallen behind No. 5 Pennsylvania to sixth-most populated state.

Eight states lost population between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, the Census Bureau said. Illinois had the largest numeric decline, losing 33,703 people, though that was a small percentage change because the state is so big to begin with with nearly 13 million people. Wyoming had the largest percentage decline at 1 percent.


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