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Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama outpace U.S. population growth rate


The population of the United States grew in the past year at the lowest rate since the nation’s founding, but Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all grew at a faster pace than the national average, according to new population estimates released Tuesday.

The U.S. Bureau of Census said the number of Americans grew by only 0.1% in the 12 months ended July 1, the slowest growth pace on record. Demographers blamed the slowdown on a drop in net international migration, decreased fertility and increased mortality due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau. “Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth.”

The population of Tennessee grew faster than the national average even though more Tennesseans died than were born in 2021 for the first time in modern history. The census bureau estimates the population of the Volunteer state grew by 0.8%, or by 55,099 persons, to boost the state’s population total to 6,975,218 as of July 1, 2021 due to a record influx of persons moving into Tennessee.

Tennessee’s net domestic migration jumped to 63,141 persons in the 12 months ended July 1, or 62% above the average inmigration pattern over the previous decade.

But the inmigration was offset, to some extent, by a natural decline in the population. During the 12 months ended July 1, a total of 85,944 Tennesseans died, while only 77,353 persons were born in the state.

Population growth in 2021

The population of Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama all exceeded the U.S. growth pace in the past year:

* Georgia, 10.8 million, up 0.7%, or 73,766

* Tennessee, 7 million, up 0.8%, or 55,099

* Alabama, 5 million, up 0.3%, or 15,598

* United States, 331.9 million, up 0.1%, or 444,464

Source: U.S. Bureau of Census population estimates of July 1, 2021 compared with July 1, 2020.

Most populous states

1. California, 39.2 million

2. Texas, 29.5 million

3. Florida, 21.8 million

4. New York, 19.8 million

5. Pennsylvania, 13 million

6. Illinois, 12.7 million

7. Ohio, 11.8 million

8. Georgia, 10.8 million

9. North Carolina, 10.6 million

10. Michigan, 10.1 million

Source: U.S. Bureau of Census population estimates of July 1, 2021.

“Fertility rates have been falling for over a decade and look to be at near record lows while deaths will continue to climb because we have a growing and an aging population in Tennessee,” said Tim Kuhn, state director of the Tennessee State Data Center. “Future growth in our state will be largely dependent upon domestic migration from other states.”

The Tennessee Valley attracted a record amount of announced investments in 2021 and the state’s unemployment rate has remained below the U.S. average while job growth has outpaced the national rate. That has encouraged more people to move into the state.

“We’ve seen that domestic migration can be more volatile and sometimes follows the business cycle,” Kuhn said. “So when economic times are good and there are lot of job opportunities in Tennessee, more people tend to flow in the state. And when there is a downturn in Tennessee, that tends to slow down.”

Some persons who have gained the ability to work remotely during the pandemic have moved to Tennessee to take advantage of the state’s comparatively low cost of living and scenic attractions. In September, for instance, tech worker Heidi Krueger moved from Houston to a home just south of Knoxville where she can see the Great Smoky Mountains from her front porch.

“Because I was working from home during the pandemic, it made it feasible to move and still keep my same job,” Krueger said. “As long as I have internet, I can still connect to our clients.”

Between 2020 and 2021, 33 states , including Georgia and Alabama, saw population increases through domestic migration. But 17 states and the District of Columbia lost population in the 12-month period.

States in the Mountain West saw the biggest year-over-year growth, with Idaho growing by almost 3%, and Utah and Montana each seeing population increases of 1.7%. The District of Columbia lost 2.9% of its population, while New York and Illinois lost 1.6% and 0.9% of their populations, respectively.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.



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