Editorial: A state on the move, barely — Alabama’s population growth isn’t much to cheer
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 08, 2014 | 1768 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 photo, Bruce Stephenson, an environmental studies professor at Rollins College Winter Park, Fla., talks about Florida's growth. Sometime  in 2014, Florida will surpass New York in population and become the nation’s third-most populous state. Photo: John Raoux/The Associated Press
In this Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 photo, Bruce Stephenson, an environmental studies professor at Rollins College Winter Park, Fla., talks about Florida's growth. Sometime in 2014, Florida will surpass New York in population and become the nation’s third-most populous state. Photo: John Raoux/The Associated Press
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It’s popular for researchers to rank states on all sorts of metrics, from income and poverty to virtually all opinions about social issues. When it comes to population, however, at least Alabama’s population growth is steady.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the state’s population grew 0.336 percent in 2012. The year before it grew 0.331 percent, and the year before that it grew 0.335. Put that in people-terms and the state is adding around 16,000 a year.

That’s not as impressive as North Dakota, where the discovery of oil in the Bakken formation created thousands of new jobs and raised the population by 3.14 percent in 2012, but certainly not as bad as Maine and West Virginia, states that lost population.

However, when put in a regional context, only Mississippi has seen a slower population growth since 2010 when the last census was taken.

Although Alabama is still the 23rd largest state based on population, it might soon fall behind South Carolina, which is growing three times as fast. At that rate, South Carolina could pass Alabama this year. The Southeast also had one of the fastest-growing states, Florida, where the population increased by 1.2 percent. If Texas (1.49 percent) is counted as part of the region, the Southeast had another state in the top 10.

Nationwide, around half of the United States’ population growth occurred in five states — Texas, California, Florida, North Carolina and Colorado.

Of course, numbers and statistics are fun to play with, but they might also point to critical reasons why some states grow and others do not.

Alabama cannot replicate Florida and California’s climate, but it is worth noting that our coastal counties are growing. Neither can our state match the size and natural resources of Texas.

However, after discounting those things that Alabama can’t match, the state’s leaders should consider what can be done to make the state more attractive to a mobile population and those things that will keep current residents happy to stay here.

These census estimates do not provide answers, but they can help us ask the right questions.
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