Washington gains 830,000 residents, becomes 13th most populous state
Washington grew faster than the nation and two-thirds of the states, earning a 10th seat in Congress and edging up two notches from its rank in 2000 to become the nation's 13th most populous state, according to the 2010 census. Much of the growth was driven by immigration.
Seattle Times staff reporter
States ranked by population
Washington added more than 830,400 residents during the past decade to become the nation's 13th most populous state.
Washington grew faster than the nation as a whole and two-thirds of the states, according to 2010 census figures released Tuesday. Its population growth gained the state a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The state now is home to 6.7 million people, nearly double its population of 40 years ago.
Yet, the state's decade-over-decade rate of growth for 2010 was the lowest in 70 years — mirroring a national trend.
"That reflects an aging population, where two kids per household have become the norm, except for the Latino population," said Richard Morrill, a Seattle demographer and professor emeritus of geography with the University of Washington.
"We're seeing a lot of immigration," he added. "That's been in the news for a long time now."
The census figures were announced Tuesday in Washington, D.C., by U.S. Census Bureau officials and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the former Washington governor whose department oversees the bureau.
The data show 308.7 million people living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, a growth of 9.7 percent from a decade ago.
The release was simply a population count and did not include any demographic data, such as age and race. Information on city and county population growth won't be released until February or March.
Washington added 14 percent more people to reach a population of 6,724,540. The state moved up two notches, surpassing Indiana and Massachusetts, to become the 13th most populous state. The 2000 census showed a 21.1 percent population growth in Washington.
The population numbers released Tuesday also included 28,829 overseas military and federal civilian employees counted as Washington residents.
Regionally, the South and the West picked up the bulk of the nation's population increase, adding 14,318,924 and 8,747,621 people, respectively. The Midwest added 2,534,225 people, and the Northeast states picked up 1,722,862.
Among individual states, Nevada grew by the largest percentage, while Texas added the greatest number of residents. Michigan was the only state to lose population. California remained the nation's most populous state and Wyoming its least.
Migration spurs growth
Demographers at Washington state's Office of Financial Management use a number of measures — including school enrollment and driver's license information — to project population estimates far into the future.
Their projection for 2010 came within less than 1 percentage point of the actual number reported by the Census Bureau on Tuesday.
Yi Zhao, chief demographer, pointed out that population grows in two ways: natural increase — the difference between births and deaths — and migration, foreign and domestic.
"During normal years," she said, "birth and death usually contribute to half the growth, and the other half comes through migration."
Between 2000 and 2010, the state added a total of 380,400 people through natural growth. The remainder of the population increase — nearly 450,000 — come through migration, people moving from either another state or from overseas.
Most came, state figures show, after the so-called dot-com bust in the early part of the decade and before the economic and housing meltdown that struck near the end.
While the census information did not include demographic breakouts, immigration groups were quick to claim that immigrants, and particularly Latinos, accounted for much of the population growth, both here and across the country.
"Today's data, coupled with recently released Census Bureau estimates, demonstrate that the Latino population has significantly influenced how congressional seats are apportioned among the states," the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement.
But the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports controlled immigration, called the population increase "enormous and unwelcome" and a further strain on the country's natural resources.
"It is increasingly clear that our immigration policies are divorced from the social, economic and environmental realities that face our nation," said its president, Dan Stein.
Latinos represent the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States as well as in Washington state. Census estimates for the 2005-2009 period released this month show the Latino population in Washington grew 41 percent since 2000.
Nationally, one-quarter of all births are to Latino mothers, compared with 19 percent in Washington state, according to state figures.
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