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The shifting distribution of the USA’s population over the past century

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How has the distribution of the USA’s population shifted over the lifetimes of Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, HRH Elizabeth II, Dianne Feinstein, etc?

In this post I compare the populations of the 50 states in the 1920 and 2020 censuses. (Don’t well actshully me on Alaska and Hawaii).

The total population of these jurisdictions was slightly more than three times greater in the latter year than the former — 3.126 times to be exact.

So I calculated what the population of each state would have been in 2020 if it still had the same proportion of the nation’s population it had in 1920. Results:

Projected 2020 pop.                           Actual 2020 pop.

New York:  32,464,000                       20,201,000

Pennsylvania:  27,259,000                  13,003,000

Illinois:  20,272,000                            12,813,000

Ohio:  18,003,000                               11,799,000

Texas:  14,577,000                              29,146,000

Massachusetts:  12.041,000               7,030,000

Michigan:  11,466,000                        10,077,000                 

California: 10,713,000                        39,538,000

Missouri: 10,641,000                          6,155,000

New Jersey: 9,866,000                       9,289,000

Arizona:   1,045,000                            7,152,000

Florida:  3,027,000                              21,538,000

Nevada:  241,975                                3,105,000

Nebraska:  4,052,000                          1,962,000

Kansas: 5,531,000                               2,938,000

Iowa: 7,515,000                                  3,190,000

North Dakota: 2,022,000                    779,000

South Dakota: 1,990,000                    887,000

Wyoming: 608,000                             576,851

Colorado: 2,937,000                           5,774,000

Utah:  1,409,000                                 3,272,000

New Mexico: 1,126,000                      2,118,000

Alaska: 172,000                                  733,000

Alabama:  7,340,000                           5,024,000

Mississippi: 5,597,000                        2,961,000

Louisiana: 5,622,000                           4,658,000

Georgia:  9,052,000                            10,712,000

Arkansas: 5,477,000                           3,012,000

North Carolina:  8,000,000                 10,439,000

South Carolina: 5,263,000                  5,118,000

Tennessee: 7,308,000                         6,911,000

Delaware:  697,000                            990,000

Vermont: 1,102,000                           643,000

Maine: 2,400,000                               1,362,000

New Hampshire: 1,385,000                1,378,000

Oklahoma: 6,340,000                         3,959,000

Kentucky: 7,710,000                           4,506,000

Virginia: 7,219,000                             8,631,000

Washington: 4,241,000                      7,705,000

Oregon: 2,449,000                              4,237,000

Idaho:  1,350,000                                1,839,000

Montana: 1,716,000                           1,084,000

West Virginia: 4,576,000                    1,794,000

Connecticut: 4,316,000                      3,606,000

Rhode Island: 1,889,000                     1,097,000

Hawaii: 800,000                                  1,455,000

Indiana: 9,160,000                              6,786,000

Minnesota: 7,462,000                        5,706,000

Wisconsin: 8,228,000                         5,894,000

Maryland: 4,532,000                          6,177,000

Washington DC:  1,368,000                690,000

Notes:

*In 1920 New York’s population was 134 times greater than Nevada’s! Nevada’s total population was 77,400 people. Hey it’s a Republic not a Democracy yo.

*The Heartland ™ has taken a terrible beating, population-wise, over the past century. Here are the percentage declines in population in these states relative to baseline:

Nebraska: -52%

Kansas: -47%

Iowa: -58%

North Dakota: -61%

South Dakota: -55%

Other states that have had big declines relative to baseline:

New York: -38%

Pennsylvania: -52%

Massachusetts: -42%

Illinois: -37%

Ohio: -34%

Missouri: -42%

Mississippi: -47%

Arkansas: -45%

Vermont: -42%

Maine: -43%

Oklahoma: -38%

Kentucky: -42%

Montana: -37%

Rhode Island: -42%

And the grand prize winner in this contest is:

West Virginia: -61%

One thing that surprised me is that my native Michigan has actually gained quite a bit more population in comparison to everybody else in the Rust Belt and the Traditional Big 10, losing only 12% of its population relative to baseline over the past century.

So where has everybody gone?

California: 269%. Again, note this is relative to baseline. California’s population increased by more than ten-fold between 1920 and 2020. In 1920 it had pretty much the same population as Indiana and Missouri.

Arizona: 584%. Hello central air conditioning.

Florida: 612%. Ditto. In 1920 Nebraska’s population was 34% larger than Florida’s.

Nevada: 1,188%. And there isn’t even a plaque, or a signpost, or a statue of him in that town.

Colorado: 97%. People around here have these bumper stickers that say “Native.” Much complaining about Californication as well.

Utah: 132%. Utah sells far more ice cream per capita than any other state.

New Mexico: 88%

Alaska: 326%. TBF the population of Alaska in 1920 was 55,000.

North Carolina: 30%

Texas: 100%. Remember the Alamo, when help was on the way?

Delaware: 42%

Washington: 82%

Oregon: 73%

Idaho: 36%

Hawaii: 82%

DC’s population is down 50% relative to baseline over the past century.

*Odd pairings:

Colorado’s population has doubled relative to baseline, while Wyoming’s has declined.

Montana’s population is down, relatively speaking, by as much as Idaho’s is up.

New Hampshire has held steady while Vermont and Maine have emptied out, again relatively speaking.

I hope you can have some fun with these figures.

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