Metro Area Populations Exhibit Minimal Growth From 2020

The Census Bureau recently released its 2021 Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) annual population estimates. Between 2020 and 2021, 251 (65%) of the 384 MSAs within the 50 states and the District of Columbia experienced population increases, albeit small on percentage terms. The MSAs’ combined total population increased from 286,195,308 in 2020 to 286,472,775 in 2021, approximately a 0.1% increase.

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX posted the largest numerical gain in population of 97,290 residents, followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ at 78,220. The largest percentage gains in population were experienced by St. George, UT Metro area and Coeur d’Alene, ID Metro area, growing by 5.1% and 4.1%, respectively. Nine out of the top ten metro areas that showed the highest population increases on percentage terms were almost evenly divided among Idaho, Florida, and Utah.

Metro areas that lost the greatest number of residents between 2020 and 2021 were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (-327,955) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (-175,913), by -1.6% and -1.3%, respectively. The largest percentage decreases were experienced by Lake Charles, LA Metro Area at -5.2% and Odessa, TX Metro Area at -2.6%.

The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area experienced a population decline of residents. The District of Columbia’s population decreased by 20,043 residents 2021, a 2.9% decline.

In addition to providing each metro area’s population change from the previous year, the Census further breaks the metro-level change down into its four components: domestic migration, international migration, fertility, and mortality. Natural change (the difference between births and deaths), domestic migration and international migration all play important roles on population changes over time among different metro areas.

In 2021, 213 (56%) of the 384 metro areas in the 50 states and District of Columbia experienced natural decrease, occurring when there are more deaths than births in a population over a given period. Sixty-three percent of metro areas had positive net domestic migration, while 92% of metro areas had positive net international migration.

Between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, i.e., the specific dates by which the populations were estimated, MSAs’ total number of births exceeded deaths by about 279,000, which is notable given that the pandemic was at its peak intensity at that time.

The total population of all MSAs in 2020 increased by 1.09% from births, decreased by 0.99% from deaths, increased by 0.08% from international migration, and decreased by 0.08% from domestic migration.

The New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro area showed the highest number of births and deaths at 215,362 and 177,015, respectively. The contribution of births to MSAs’ individual population changes ranged from 0.3% to 2.1%. The contribution of deaths to MSAs’ individual population changes ranged 0.4% to 2.1%.

For all MSAs combined, the Census estimated a net domestic outflow of 233,433 residents and a net international inflow of 231,980 residents. Individually, New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Areas had the largest net international migrations of 23,681 and 22,764, respectively. Meanwhile, the same MSA that showed the largest international net inflow, the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro area, and additionally, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro area experienced the largest domestic outflows of residents of 385,455 and 204,776, respectively.

The distribution of percentage changes across all metro areas shows a high clustering of MSAs near zero. Per the data, 88% of all MSAs populations did not change by more than 1.25%.

Possible future studies from the MSA-level population changes include examinations of various housing aspects in the areas, e.g., building activity, housing-related demographic attributes, homeownership, etc.

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