RI Only State Losing Population Two Years in a Row

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Quick Links: see larger out-migration report here

Since the U.S. Census department released its latest state-by-state population estimates, it has been widely reported that Rhode Island was one of only two states to lose population from 2011 to 2012.  The other was Vermont.

However, as with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s findings in September, looking more deeply reveals that the headlines actually understate Rhode Island’s poor position.

In total, Rhode Island lost 354 people, or 0.03% of the 1,050,646 estimated to have lived here in 2011. As bad as that is, it looks preferable to the 581 whom Vermont lost, which was 0.09% of that state’s population. Two considerations smudge that silver lining.

As a percentage of population, most of the difference was in the higher number of births in Rhode Island: 1.02% of population versus 0.92% in Vermont.  To some extent, that’s a positive finding, but it’s only significant because Rhode Island offset more of the residents who moved to other states (0.51% of population, to VT’s 0.28%) with higher immigration from other countries (0.34%, to VT’s 0.10%).

The second smudge is that this year is Rhode Island’s second on the population-loss list.  Last year, its company wasn’t Vermont, but Michigan.  Over the two-year span, from 2010 to 2012, Vermont’s population has grown; over the last year, Michigan made up most of its loss from the year before.

Uniquely, Rhode Island is still slipping, with a two-year net loss of 2,275 people.  Of course, international immigration and a natural increase (with births outnumbering deaths) soften the blow. Since 2010, 1.26% of Rhode Island’s population — 13,259 people — have left for other states. As with the other numbers presented, here, that’s a net number, meaning it’s the number of Rhode Islanders who left above and beyond the number of people who moved here.

It’s true that Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state in the nation, after New Jersey, so a rapidly growing population might be problematic in the long term.  Be that as it may, multi-year trends of losing population — especially losing established Rhode Islanders to other states — is a symptom of a state in need of dramatic turnaround.

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