This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Is There a Mormon Influence on State Growth Rates in the US? UPDATED

Just before Christmas the U.S. Census Bureau put out its latest estimates of population growth by state in this country. It was a big enough deal that the day of the release actually showed up on the weekly calendar that the CBS Sunday Morning program always posts right at the end of its program. You may already have seen in various media that Idaho got the prize for growing at the fastest rate of any state between 201 and 2017.
“Domestic migration drove change in the two fastest-growing states, Idaho and Nevada, while an excess of births over deaths played a major part in the growth of the third fastest-growing state, Utah,” said Luke Rogers, Chief of the Population Estimates Branch.
Idaho and Nevada are, of course, contiguous to Utah--the home base of the nation's Mormon population--so it may be that internal migration into those states is influenced also by the growth of the Mormon population as it spreads out from its base. A Wikipedia page with data purported to be official membership data of the Church of Latter Day Saints shows that 68% of Utah's population is Mormon, and the next highest percentages are all in the states neighboring Utah--Idaho (26%), Wyoming (12%), Nevada (6%) and Arizona (6%). [See map below.]  Of some interest, though, is the fact that Wyoming actually had the highest percentage drop in population between 2016 and 2017. Maybe they went to Idaho and Nevada? This is hard to know, of course, since the U.S. government does not track religion as one of the demographic variables collected in the census or surveys.

If we look at the absolute change in population by state, the picture is quite different. Texas added more people than any other state, followed closely by Florida, and then California (which houses more Mormons in absolute terms than any other state outside of Utah). Keep in mind that these estimates are from mid-year 2016 to mid-year 2017, so they don't take this Fall's hurricanes into account. We'll have to wait another year for that news from the Census Bureau.

UPDATE: Today's Washington Post carries a story comparing the population growth rates in Idaho (nation's highest as noted above) with its next-door neighbor Wyoming (nation's lowest--indeed it is negative as noted above). Andrew Van Dam has crunched some numbers and concludes that Wyoming is suffering from a declining demand for and price in coal, which is the state's main economic engine. On the other hand, Idaho has shifted over the years from mining to agriculture to manufacturing, technology, and services. He does not, however, mention Mormons in his story...

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