The states people left in 2020 — and why

National News

This Sunday, April 5, 2020, photo shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

(NEXSTAR) – While hardly a convenient year to move, people left a handful of states this year at a surprising rate.

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week, the states with the highest population decreases include New York, Illinois and Hawaii.

New York had the most striking population decline between July 2019 and 2020, losing an estimated 126,355 people — about .65% of its total population. This follows a steady trend of decline in the state from 2015 onwards. While it’s not clear why the population continues to fall, one New York-based think tank attributes the decline to falling immigration rates. A New Yorker “exodus” to Florida might also be to blame; according to one estimate, 21% of people who left New York over the past decade moved to the Sunshine State.

Illinois experienced a similar population decline, dropping from 12,667,017 residents to 12,587,530 in 2020 — a nearly 80,000-person decrease. It’s the seventh year in a row the state has seen such a decline, and the Census Bureau estimates that more than a quarter-million people have left the state in the past decade — about triple the losses of other states.

“Illinois’ record population loss is a symptom of declining public and private investments. Rising pension debt coupled with an increasing tax burden have raised costs for Illinoisans,” Illinois Policy Institute chief economist Orphe Divounguy told The Pantagraph. “It’s become clear that Illinois leaders are not committed to changing course. Every year taxes go up, and yet there are fewer and less reliable services.”

Other theories attribute the decrease to a general decline in national population growth, thanks to lower birth rates, less immigration and, perhaps, deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figures out of Hawaii are hardly less striking. The state’s population decreased by about double the amount compared to the previous year, losing an estimated 8,609 people.

“This isn’t a new problem for our state,” said Keli’i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, in a statement. “For some time now, our neighbors, family and friends have been moving away to states such as Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Texas, which have lower taxes and fewer regulations, and offer residents more freedoms and opportunities.

“There’s no mystery about why they feel compelled to go,” he continued, “It’s a matter of the state’s high cost of living and better job opportunities in other states.”

Populations aren’t decreasing across the board. The midwest, mountain region and south appear to be drawing new residents in droves. The population in Idaho, for example, increased by more per capita than any other state, rising by almost 38,000 people. Texas — the state that’s recently been making headlines for attracting tech companies and CEOS — saw its population swell by 373,965 people. Oracle and Hewlett-Packard recently relocated to the state from Silicon Valley, as did Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

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