U.S. Population Growth Slows: Many States See Decline


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Annual Resident Population of the United States as of July 1, 2020 was estimated at 329.5 million, increasing by 1.2 million from the previous year. In 2020, the Census estimated a growth rate of 0.35% on a national level, making the fifth consecutive year of a decline for the population growth rate.

In 2020, the top five states for population growth, by count, were Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia (the same states that had the greatest increases in 2019). As the resident population increases, housing demand in single- and multifamily dwellings increases commensurately. Multifamily dwellings are more common in areas where the population density is highest, as evidenced by NAHB’s Home Building Geography Index. In terms of relative changes from the previous year, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas showed the highest annual percentage growth rates (percentage changes) in 2020.

In 2020, 15 states experienced population declines, four more states than the previous year. New York, Illinois, and California had the greatest numerical declines, of 126,000, 79,000, and 70,000 respectively. 2020 was the fifth consecutive year in which New York had experienced a decline in its resident population.

While the population changes in New York and Illinois were continuations of prior trajectories of decline, the population change in California was not. In fact, for the first time on record (i.e., since 1900), California’s annual resident population registered a decline. This is due to poor housing affordability, as well as some covid-19 relocation effects. As California is home to many highly-densely populated cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, the introduction of shelter-in-place restrictions encouraged some to seek alternate work arrangements elsewhere.

The linked tables here show the population in thousands for each state in 2019 and 2020 and the percentage change from 2019 to 2020.

Looking forward, NAHB’s HBGI indicates that builders of single-family and multifamily homes expanded faster in low density, low cost markets. Thus, states with population declines and low housing affordability are likely to see ongoing declines. In contrast, some states seeing lackluster growth or declines, but possessing relatively better housing affordability, may see an uptick in growth. For example, many cities in the Midwest saw rapid single-family construction growth in 2020 due to lower costs and telecommuting.

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