Population growth, economics, freedom, and religion

By Nathan Barton

One of the interesting news items last week was that Utah’s population crossed the 3.0 million mark as it became the nation’s fastest-growing state over the last year. Its population increased 2.0 percent to 3.1 million from July 1, 2015, to July 1, 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau national and state population estimates released on Wednesday, 20 December. It was reported that states in the South and West continued to lead in population growth. In 2016, 37.9 percent of the nation’s population lived in the South and 23.7 percent lived in the West. Following Utah, Nevada (2.0 percent), Idaho (1.8 percent), Florida (1.8 percent) and Washington (1.8 percent) saw the largest percentage increases in population. North Dakota, which had been the fastest-growing state for the previous four years, mostly from people moving into the state, fell out of the top ten in growth due to a net outflow of migrants to other parts of the country. Its growth slowed from 2.3 percent in the previous year to 0.1 percent.

The Fifty States’ population grew by 0.7 percent to 323.1 million. The population of voting-age residents, adults age 18 and over, grew to 249.5 million, making up 77.2 percent of the population in 2016, an increase of 0.9 percent from 2015 (247.3 million). Eight states lost population between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, including Pennsylvania, New York and Wyoming, all three of which had grown the previous year. Illinois lost more people than any other state (-37,508).

Mama’s Note: Don’t know about the others, but the population of Wyoming has always been fluid: up with the boom times and down with the bust that always follows. Those of us who live here all the time are quite happy to see the transients come, and often just as glad to see them leave. Most of the rare actual, aggressive crime is committed by transients of one sort or another.

It is always easy to generalize, and a one-year interval often can overlook important factors and trends, but let me make some comments.

First off, the way the mainstream (and alternative) media reports this new report is interesting. As is the commentary about it. Consider:

– USA Today’s headline: Americans aren’t having as many kids: 8 states post population loss
– The Hill: Western States growing fast as Northeast bleeds population
– KKTV (a station in Colorado Springs): Colorado among the fasting growing states in the nation

Actually, most media outlets in the top ten states (by percentage) had some version of that “among the fastest growing.” And even some that didn’t. Everyone wants to be like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon children – above average. Despite USA Today’s headline, the data released doesn’t get into WHY the various States’ population is changing, and if you go to the more-detailed info, you see that often the growth (or shrinkage) has little to do with “natural increase” (births versus deaths) but instead is mostly a result of emigration and immigration (within the Fifty States and from/to foreign nations). Yes, supposedly we ARE having fewer children (or at least people in California and some other states are), but that is NOT the primary reason for the changes in population.

Note, too, that the report does not include one factor: deaths. As reported in various places (including NPR), life expectancy in the Fifty States DROPPED in 2015-2016. While the death rate is STILL the same (one death per person), some people (actually a whole lot of people) are dying sooner than anticipated. Still, this is ignoring other things, as headline writers tend to do.

Second, why Utah? It isn’t really booming, and its state government is frankly a nanny-state in a LOT of ways. And many of its local governments are worse. Immigrants (from another of the Fifty States or outside of them) are not exactly storming the borders. But its birthrate is the highest in the Fifty States. That seems to be part of the reason for Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon to also be growing fast: births. (Although immigration seems to be more a factor in Washington and Nevada.) I submit (strictly through empirical observation) that all of these states (primarily Eastern Washington and not the megalopolis on the Coast) have one thing in common.

Religion: specifically the Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). LDS tend to have big families, for religious reasons (which I won’t go into). But more to the point, apparently the Western states are still more religious. Not just LDS, but other christian religions, than other parts of the country. It is nicer to live in places where there are many religious people who live more moral lives, less worry about theft and all the rest. Which brings us to my next question.

Third, why the West? Seven of the top ten fastest growing are Western states. And three are Southern States (Texas is in the top ten, with Florida and South Carolina. (DC, which is NOT a state, was put in the list by the Census. The real tenth state is South Carolina; North Carolina is eleventh.) Even Colorado, that great and now “permanently-blue” state, is in the top ten. Yet I think the answer is simple.

Politics: specifically the growing power and control of government in the Northeast (as in California). Government which makes that part of the Fifty States a nastier place to live. It is that area where government is growing more and more powerful AND intolerable. (DC’s growth may even be proof of this: it attracts those who benefit from more and more government.) Could it also be that the Northeast is so badly overpopulated that it is less and less desirable? Could it be that these are areas (together with California) have the greatest Progressive (Tranzi?) influence? All of these are political in nature.

The reason most of the news soures gives is “economic opportunity.” Assuming that it is JUST economics driving this, those economic opportunities are often directly related to political meddling. Not all, of course, which is why North Dakota, after growing for years, barely did so this year – the oil boom has slowed.

All of these reasons are tied together, and all of them make these states better places to live. So it makes sense that they are going to grow. It is a lesson to be learned.

Freedom, liberty, even if only relatively better, is better.

About tpolnathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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