Size Doesn't Matter

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Idaho boasts a little less than 83,000 square miles of mountains, plains, and forests that about 15 people per square mile call home. So what makes Idaho a Census 2000 standout state?

More Than Potatoes

IDAHO BY THE NUMBERS

NUMERICAL DIFFERENCE

1990-2000
SHARE OF TOTAL

GROWTH, 1990-2000
Total population 287,204 100.0*
White 226,853 79.0
Black or African American 2,086 0.7
American Indian and A.K. Native 3,865 1.3
Asian 3,397 1.2
Native Hawaiian and Other
Pacific Islander 435 0.2
Some other race 24,959 8.7
HISPANIC OR LATINO AND RACE
Total population 287,204 100.0
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 48,763 17.0
Not Hispanic or Latino 238,441 83.0
White 210,630 73.3
Black or African American 1,678 0.6
American Indian and A.K. Native 3,371 1.2
Asian 3,415 1.2
Native Hawaiian and Other
Pacific Islander 373 0.1
Some other race 713 0.2
Source: US Census Bureau, Forecast Analysis

Frozen Growth

ALASKA BY THE NUMBERS

NUMERICAL DIFFERENCE

1990-2000
SHARE OF TOTAL

GROWTH, 1990-2000
Total population 76,889 100.0*
White 19,042 24.8
Black or African American -664 N/A
American Indian and A.K. Native 12,345 16.1
Asian 7,302 9.5
Native Hawaiian and Other
Pacific Islander 1,395 1.8
Some other race 3,323 4.3
HISPANIC OR LATINO AND RACE
Total population 76,889 100.0
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 8,049 10.5
Not Hispanic or Latino 68,840 89.5
White 17,066 22.2
Black or African American -726 N/A
American Indian and A.K. Native 11,911 15.5
Asian 7,819 10.2
Native Hawaiian and
Other Pacific Islander 1,373 1.8
Some other race 943 1.2
* Numbers do not add to 100. Only single race categories shown.
Source: US Census Bureau, Forecast Analysis

Believe it or not, Idaho, whose population of 1,293,953 ranks 39th in the United States, actually ranks first among an elite corps of states — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Iowa among them. Their percentage growth rate, rather than their total population growth, is what sets this group apart from powerhouse states that added sheer numerical volume during the decennial 1990-2000. As demographers plumb the numbers behind the rapid growth rate, they're starting to decode the double-helix of population trends shaping America's markets today and tomorrow. One trend, the diversification of America, dominates the headlines today. The second, the migratory behavior of Americans, especially aging Baby Boomers, is emerging as an equally powerful market-making force for the next 20 years or more.

California, with an increase of 4 million people, and Florida, which contributed almost 10 percent of the nation's population growth during the last decade, together underscore the significance of ethnic immigration and ethnic birth-rate growth, leading toward what demographers call a U.S. minority-majority by no later than 2050. However, the high-growth-rate states of the 1990s, even ones with fairly low population counts, may better reflect where people reaching their retirement years — and their money — are heading for respite and recreation.

Consider where growth rate is fastest, generally in states characterized by wide open spaces offering a host of natural amenities, and you can pick up hints that Americans' protracted love-affair with suburban life may be winding down in favor of the countryside. What's more, traditional Sun Belt states are no longer the magnets they once were to retirees and second-home seekers. As household-formation, age, and wealth data are released from Census 2000, it's likely that there will be even more demographic disparities between the populations that are attracted to large metropolitan areas and those that are attracted to rapidly accelerating states like Idaho and Colorado.

Indeed, the people who are driving growth in these fast-growing states are non-Hispanic whites. In Idaho, for example, non-Hispanic whites made up 83 percent of the state's population growth — far more than the 60 percent that whites contributed to the nation's growth on average. What's also clear from previous Census Bureau data is that birth-rate is not a significant factor in the high-growth-rate states. What is significant: the people moving from different parts of the country who are fueling the growth. In fact, census data indicates that the top-ten fastest-growing states are also among the leading 15 destination states for Americans on the move from state to state.

UNEXPECTED GROWTH SPURT

States with slow or negative population growth during the 1980s led in growth rate during the 1990s.

TOP 10 STATES GROWTH ACCELERATION RATE 1990-2000 GROWTH, IN THOUSANDS 1990-2000 10-YEAR RATE, IN % 1980-1990 GROWTH, IN THOUSANDS 1980-1990 10-YEAR RATE, IN %
1. Idaho 21.9% 287 28.5% 63 6.6%
2. Colorado 16.6% 1,007 30.6% 404 14.0%
3. Nevada 16.0% 796 66.3% 402 50.2%
4. Oregon 12.4% 579 20.4% 209 7.9%
5. Wyoming 12.4% 40 8.9% -16 -3.5%
6. Utah 11.7% 510 29.6% 262 17.9%
7. Montana 11.4% 103 12.9% 12 1.5%
8. Arkansas 10.9% 323 13.7% 65 2.8%
9. Tennessee 10.4% 812 16.7% 286 6.2%
10. Iowa 10.1% 150 5.4% -137 -4.7%
BOTTOM 10 STATES GROWTH ACCELERATION RATE 1990-2000 GROWTH, IN THOUSANDS 1990-2000 10-YEAR RATE, IN % 1980-1990 GROWTH, IN THOUSANDS 1980-1990 10-YEAR RATE, IN %
42 Rhode Island -1.5% 45 4.5% 56 6.0%
43. Vermont -1.9% 46 8.2% 52 10.1%
44. Connecticut -2.2% 118 3.6% 179 5.8%
45. Maryland -2.6% 515 10.8% 564 13.4%
46. Maine -5.3% 47 3.8% 103 9.1%
47. Hawaii -5.5% 103 9.3% 143 14.8%
48. New Hampshire -9.0% 127 11.4% 188 20.4%
49. Florida -9.2% 3,044 23.5% 3,192 32.8%
50. California -11.9% 4,112 13.8% 6,092 25.7%
51. Alaska -22.8% 77 14.0% 148 36.8%
*Growth acceleration rate is the percentage point difference between 1990-2000 growth rate and 1980-1990 growth rate.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Forecast analysis

What will it take for accelerating states to continue growing by leaps and bounds over the decades ahead? They'll need to cast their spell over Generation Y's 71 million members as they begin their household-formation years, says Chris Ertel, demographer-in-residence at Global Business Network, in Emeryville, California. “There could be off-the-wall fads over the next 20 years, not related to current perceptions and economic realities,� he says. “Just as Baby Boomers ‘discovered’ the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, the Echo Boom may ‘discover’ regions and make them popular.�

If state officials and residents expect to maintain their status as highest-growth-rate states, they'll also need to attract minority migrants. As minority groups as a whole begin to reach parity with non-Hispanic whites, the effects will start showing up among states that record the fastest growth rate. In fact, there's good reason to assume that the first- and second-generation immigrants behind the surge in the nation's total growth will, not long from now, discover the allure of these territories.

An analysis of 1998-2000 Current Population Survey data by Census Bureau demographer Jason Schacter found that native- and foreign-born Americans share similar motivations for moving long distances. “If everyone is moving for the same reasons, then migration patterns will ultimately bring geographic dispersion,� he says — which means that the nation's beautiful places will necessarily become more diverse over time. Adds Global Business Network's Ertel: “Eventually, the rural areas will start to look like the rest of the country. It will happen slowly, but it's inevitable.�

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