Washington: the growth state?

The Northern Tier as a whole has seen a spurt in population.

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Click to enlarge. Washington is among the state's with the fastest rates of growth from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011. Color codes are in this order: purple/blue (colors may appear differently on some browsers and terminals), loss of .116 percent population to a gain of up to .2 percent (two-tenths of percent); green, .2 to .5 percent gain; yellow, plus .5 to .75 percent; lavender, .75-1 percent gain; maroon/red, greater than 1 percent gain.

The Northern Tier as a whole has seen a spurt in population.

Has Washington joined the Sun Belt? Not quite, but the latest population estimates for 2010-2011 from the U.S. Census Bureau show quite remarkable changes, with our state experiencing the kind of growth long associated with the warmer parts of the country.

Across the United States, the main change from the general pattern for 2000-2010 is actually a slowdown of population growth in the traditional Sunbelt from Florida to California, including Nevada and Utah. The Sun Belt has given way in favor as a place to live to the old Northern Tier, from Minnesota, through the Dakotas and Montana, to Oregon, and, especially, Washington.

The most spectacular turnaround is for North Dakota, which had suffered decades of slow growth and out-migration, but suddenly has the highest rate of net in-migration in 2010-2011 for all the states. Some of this growth, largely fueled by growth in oil and other energy sectors there, is spilling over to Montana, as well as Wyoming and South Dakota.

As we know, Washington grew significantly in the decade of 2000-2010, resulting in its getting a 10th congressional district, but in the 2010-2011 it saw a further spurt of growth, reflecting our continuing popularity with migrants and our relatively less painful economic situation.

Washington was the sixth fastest growing state for 2010-2011 and had the fifth highest rate of net internal migration, after the District of Columbia and North Dakota (both turnarounds from loss for the decade of 2000-2010), Florida, and Colorado.  But even with respect to natural increase, the difference between births and deaths, Washington is looking more like a sunbelt state, with surprisingly high levels, a reflection of our relatively young population, and of course, the increase in the Hispanic population of the state. Finally, immigration from abroad contributes to Washington’s growth, although it has slowed slightly.

In contrast to this surprising vitality, several big gaining states from the last decade, have suffered severe slowdowns  (California, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia) and even are experiencing net out-migration (California, Nevada, Utah).  No one knows if this will last but for now it’s, go Northern Tier, go!


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Dick Morrill

Dick Morrill is emeritus professor of geography at the University of Washington and an expert in urban demography.