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2020 Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) Results for the 50 states and District of Columbia to be released May 19. Learn more.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2022

Over Two-Thirds of the Nation’s Counties Had Natural Decrease in 2021

Release Number CB22-51

COVID-19 pandemic's impact on births and deaths results in a record number of counties experiencing natural decrease.

MARCH 24, 2022 — More than 73% (2,297) of U.S. counties experienced natural decrease in 2021, up from 45.5% in 2019 and 55.5% in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 estimates of population and components of change released today. Natural decrease occurs when there are more deaths than births in a population over a given time period.  In 2021, fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic--contributed to a rise in natural decrease. The statistics released today include population estimates and components of change for the nation’s 384 metropolitan statistical areas, 543 micropolitan statistical areas and 3,143 counties.

In 2021, all counties in Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island experienced natural decrease. Some counties also experienced population declines attributable to migration. Counties with net international migration loss (more people moving out of than into the country), were most frequently found in California (41.4%), Oregon (27.8%) and Mississippi (23.2%). States with the highest percentages of counties with net domestic migration loss (people moving from one area to another within the United States) were Alaska (80.0%), Louisiana (71.9%) and Illinois (65.7%).

Most of the nation’s counties – 2,063 or 65.6% -- experienced positive domestic migration overall from 2020 to 2021. Arizona’s Maricopa County gained the most (46,866) residents from domestic migration, followed by Riverside County, California (31,251), and Collin County, Texas (30,191). Los Angeles County, California, experienced the greatest net domestic migration loss (179,757 residents), followed by New York County, New York (113,642). 

“The patterns we’ve observed in domestic migration shifted in 2021,” said Dr. Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “Even though over time we’ve seen a higher number of counties with natural decrease and net international migration continuing to decline, in the past year, the contribution of domestic migration counteracted these trends so there were actually more counties growing than losing population.”  
In many cases, there was a shift from larger, more populous counties to medium and smaller ones. These patterns contributed to population increases in 1,822 counties (58.0%), while 1,313 (41.8%) lost residents, and eight (0.3%) saw no change in population.

U.S. micro areas, up 0.2% between 2020 and 2021, grew slightly faster than U.S. metro areas, which increased by 0.1%. This is a departure from past trends when metro areas typically grew at a faster rate than micro areas. Among metro areas, 251 (65%) experienced population increases between 2020 and 2021. Of the 543 U.S. micro areas, 287 (52.9%) had population increases in 2021.  

Of the 384 metro areas in the 50 states and District of Columbia, 213 (55.5%) experienced natural decrease in 2021, with Pittsburgh, PA (-10,838); Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (-9,291); and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL (-6,643) having the highest levels.Sixty-three percent of metro areas had positive net domestic migration, with Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ (66,850); Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (54,319); and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (42,089) seeing the largest net domestic migration gains. The largest metropolitan net domestic migration losses were in New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (385,455); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (204,776); San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA (128,870); and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (106,897). 

Additional Highlights

Counties

  • Growth and decline:
    • Five of the top 10 largest-gaining counties in 2021, were in Texas. Collin, Fort Bend, Williamson, Denton and Montgomery counties gained a combined 145,663 residents.
    • Los Angeles County, California experienced the largest population loss of any county, losing 159,621 residents in 2021.
    • Seventy-one percent of counties (2,218) experienced positive net international migration. 
    • Four counties crossed the threshold of 100,000 residents in 2021—Cleveland County, North Carolina (100,359), Lancaster County, South Carolina (100,336), Bastrop County, Texas (102,058), and Grant County, Washington (100,297).
    • Los Angeles County, California (9,829,544) and Cook County, Illinois (5,173,146), had more than 5 million residents in 2021, making them the top two most populous counties in the nation.

Municipios (Puerto Rico)

  • In 2021, all 78 municipios experienced natural decrease. San Juan had the highest natural decrease at -1,704, followed by Bayamón (-920) and Carolina (-834).
  • Thirty-five (44.9%) municipios had positive net migration in 2021, with Gurabo (733) and Toa Alta (704) seeing the largest population gains.
  • In 2021, 15 municipios gained residents, 62 lost residents, and one had no change in population. 

Metropolitan Statistical Areas 

  • Growth:
    • Sixty-five percent (251 of 384) of the metro areas within the 50 states and the District of Columbia experienced population increase between 2020 and 2021.
    • Texas was home to four of the top 10 largest-gaining metro areas.
    • Sixty-three percent of metro areas had positive net domestic migration. Seeing the largest net domestic migration gains were Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ (66,850), Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (54,319), and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (42,089).
    • Net international migration was positive in 353 (91.9%) of metros.
    • Having gained 17,133 residents between 2020 and 2021, Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN, crossed the threshold of 2 million residents, for a total population of 2,012,476.
  • Decline:
    • Metro areas with notable numeric population declines between 2020 and 2021 were San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA (-116,385) and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (-91,671). 
    • Lake Charles, LA (-5.3%), Odessa, TX (-2.6%) and San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA (-2.5%) had the largest percent decreases in population.

Micropolitan Statistical Areas 

  • Of the 543 micro areas within the 50 states and District of Columbia, 52.9% (287) had a population increase between 2020 and 2021.
  • Williston, ND had the largest numeric (-2,665) and percent (-6.5) decrease in population.
  • Shelby, NC and Moses Lake, WA both crossed the 100,000 residents threshold between 2020 and 2021, reaching 100,359 and 100,297, respectively.

The Population Estimates Program uses current data on births, deaths and migration to calculate population change since the most recent decennial census and produce a time series of estimates of population, demographic components of change and housing units. The annual time series of estimates begins with the most recent decennial census date and extends to the vintage year. This is the second release of population estimates data developed from a base population that integrates the 2020 Census, Vintage 2020 estimates, and 2020 Demographic Analysis estimates. Comparisons to previous years are not recommended.

With each new release of annual estimates, the entire time series of estimates is revised for all years back to the last census. All previously published estimates (i.e., old vintages) are superseded and archived on the <https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest/datasets/>.

More information on the timing of specific population and housing unit estimates products is available at <https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest/about/schedule.html>. The Vintage 2020 methodology statement and release notes are available at <https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest/technical-documentation/methodology.html>. 

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Table 1


Top 10 Most Populous Counties: July 1, 2021

Rank State County April 1, 2020
 (Estimates Base)
July 1, 2020 July 1, 2021
1 California Los Angeles County 10,014,009 9,989,165 9,829,544
2 Illinois Cook County 5,275,541 5,262,741 5,173,146
3 Texas Harris County 4,731,145 4,732,491 4,728,030
4 Arizona Maricopa County 4,420,568 4,438,342 4,496,588
5 California San Diego County 3,298,634 3,297,252 3,286,069
6 California Orange County 3,186,989 3,184,101 3,167,809
7 Florida Miami-Dade County 2,701,767 2,692,459 2,662,777
8 New York Kings County 2,736,074 2,727,393 2,641,052
9 Texas Dallas County 2,613,539 2,610,957 2,586,050
10 California Riverside County 2,418,185 2,422,764 2,458,395

 

Table 2


Top 10 Counties in Numeric Growth: July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021

Rank State County April 1, 2020
 (Estimates Base)
July 1, 2020 July 1, 2021 Numeric Growth
1 Arizona Maricopa County 4,420,568 4,438,342 4,496,588 58,246
2 Texas Collin County 1,064,465 1,073,149 1,109,462 36,313
3 California Riverside County 2,418,185 2,422,764 2,458,395 35,631
4 Texas Fort Bend County 822,779 828,632 858,527 29,895
5 Texas Williamson County 609,017 615,266 643,026 27,760
6 Texas Denton County 906,422 913,900 941,647 27,747
7 Florida Polk County 725,046 729,233 753,520 24,287
8 Texas Montgomery County 620,443 624,938 648,886 23,948
9 Florida Lee County 760,822 764,679 787,976 23,297
10 Utah Utah County 659,399 663,143 684,986 21,843

 

Table 3


Top 10 Counties in Numeric Decline: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021

Rank State County April 1, 2020
 (Estimates Base)
July 1, 2020 July 1, 2021 Numeric Decline
1 California Los Angeles County 10,014,009 9,989,165 9,829,544 -184,465
2 New York New York County 1,694,251 1,687,834 1,576,876 -117,375
3 Illinois Cook County 5,275,541 5,262,741 5,173,146 -102,395
4 New York Kings County 2,736,074 2,727,393 2,641,052 -95,022
5 New York Queens County 2,405,464 2,395,791 2,331,143 -74,321
6 California San Francisco County 873,965 870,014 815,201 -58,764
7 California Santa Clara County 1,936,259 1,930,598 1,885,508 -50,751
8 New York Bronx County 1,472,654 1,466,438 1,424,948 -47,706
9 California Alameda County 1,682,353 1,679,844 1,648,556 -33,797
10 Florida Miami-Dade County 2,701,767 2,692,459 2,662,777 -38,990

 
 

Table 4


Top 10 Counties in Percent Decline: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021

Resident Population of 20,000 or more in 2020 and 2021
Rank State County April 1, 2020
 (Estimates Base)
July 1, 2020 July 1, 2021 Percent Decline
1 New York New York County 1,694,251 1,687,834 1,576,876 -6.9%
2 California San Francisco County 873,965 870,014 815,201 -6.7%
3 North Dakota Williams County 40,950 41,149 38,484 -6.0%
4 Louisiana Calcasieu Parish 216,785 216,416 205,282 -5.3%
5 California San Mateo County 764,442 762,453 737,888 -3.5%
6 New York Kings County 2,736,074 2,727,393 2,641,052 -3.5%
7 Massachusetts Suffolk County 797,936 795,431 771,245 -3.3%
8 New York Bronx County 1,472,654 1,466,438 1,424,948 -3.2%
9 New York Queens County 2,405,464 2,395,791 2,331,143 -3.1%
10 New Jersey Hudson County 724,854 722,655 702,463 -3.1%

 

Table 5


Top 10 Metro Areas in Percent Growth: July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021

Rank Metro Area April 1, 2020
 (Estimates Base)
July 1, 2020 July 1, 2021 Percent Growth
1 St. George, UT 180,279 181,924 191,226 5.1%
2 Coeur d'Alene, ID 171,362 172,646 179,789 4.1%
3 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 487,722 491,582 509,794 3.7%
4 Punta Gorda, FL 186,847 187,960 194,843 3.7%
5 The Villages, FL 129,752 130,897 135,638 3.6%
6 Boise City, ID 764,718 769,581 795,268 3.3%
7 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 725,046 729,233 753,520 3.3%
8 Provo-Orem, UT 671,185 674,967 697,141 3.3%
9 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 760,822 764,679 787,976 3.0%
10 Logan, UT-ID 147,348 147,796 152,083 2.9%

 

Table 6


Top 10 Metro Areas in Numeric Growth: July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021

Rank Metro Area April 1, 2020
 (Estimates Base)
July 1, 2020 July 1, 2021 Numeric Growth
1 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 7,637,387 7,662,325 7,759,615 97,290
2 Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ 4,845,832 4,867,925 4,946,145 78,220
3 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 7,122,240 7,137,747 7,206,841 69,094
4 Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX 2,283,371 2,299,125 2,352,426 53,301
5 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,599,839 4,605,504 4,653,105 47,601
6 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA 6,089,815 6,101,146 6,144,050 42,904
7 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 3,175,275 3,183,385 3,219,514 36,129
8 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 2,558,143 2,566,683 2,601,788 35,105
9 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 2,660,329 2,669,665 2,701,046 31,381
10 Raleigh-Cary, NC 1,413,982 1,420,225 1,448,411 28,186

Contact


Leslie Malone
Public Information Office
301-763-3030 or
877-861-2010 (U.S. and Canada only)
pio@census.gov

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