Births and international immigration have maintained the District’s population growth for 15 years

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Recently released estimates from the US Census Bureau of the components of demographic change (April 2010 to July 2020) show that the district’s total population grew to 712,816 between 2019 and 2020, a gain of 4,563 new residents. This gain represents about a third of the average annual variation observed during the first half of this decade. Natural increase, or the number of births minus deaths, continues to be the primary driver of population growth in the district, accounting for 67 percent of the net increase – the fourth highest natural growth rate in the country.

It should be noted that internal migration between 2019 and 2020 was almost a quarter of what was observed the previous year, although it remains negative. The District’s population growth rate of 0.64 percent shows a slight improvement over the previous year (0.58 percent). However, the district’s growth rate is almost double the national rate (0.35%) and is also higher than that of the Washington metropolitan area (0.43%), which is the lowest population growth rate. observed by the metropolitan area since 2010.

It is estimated that births and international migration added 11,928 new residents to the district (9,155 and 2,143 respectively), while deaths and emigration decreased the population by 6,751 (6,093 and 658 respectively). ). Consistent with trends seen last year, the natural increase and births in DC, as well as the greater metropolitan area, are slightly lower than in previous years, while still being strong enough to offset the deaths. Perhaps due to COVID-19, the number of deaths in the district increased 12.5% ​​from last year, which explains the slight decline in natural growth.

The net migration of 1,485 residents to DC in 2020 was 3.4 times that of 2019 (334 residents), driven by a gain of 2,143 new residents through international immigration. While the district experienced negative net inland migration for the third year in a row, it saw a much lower net number of residents this year (658 residents) – a population decrease that is 2.7 times less than the 2 417 residents who left last year. .

Compared to the rest of the region, DC had a higher population growth rate than 10 of the 15 counties in the largest metropolitan area, 5 of which experienced population losses. Stafford, Loudoun and Frederick counties experienced the strongest growth rates (nearly 2%) between 2019 and 2020, as well as the highest net migration rates per 1,000 population.

While Fairfax County reported the highest absolute number of international migration, it also recorded the highest absolute number of domestic emigration, which far exceeded the first, losing a total of 8,825 residents. Relative to the size of the population, Alexandria, Manassas and Manassas Park experienced the highest rates of departure of residents for other parts of the country.

Overall, the DC metropolitan area experienced its lowest growth rate in a decade, at 0.43%, along with its lowest figures for net migration (domestic and international) and natural increase. of the population (births and deaths). Among the 10 most populous metropolitan areas, the Washington metropolitan area is average in terms of population growth rate and natural increase. For net and domestic migration, it decreased in the bottom half, while for international migration, it decreased in the top half.

Between 2019 and 2020, of the 89 major cities in the United States with more than 250,000 inhabitants, 63% registered a lower growth rate than the previous year and about a third registered their highest annual growth rate. bottom of the decade. The decline in growth rates was much larger among the 10 largest cities (population over one million), half of which have lost population since 2019. 33 of the major cities have experienced higher growth rates than the year before, with notable surges for Seattle, Fort Worth, Austin, Tampa, Denver and San Antonio.

The patterns seen in other cities are consistent with the broader trends seen across the country recently (even before the pandemic), with increasing numbers of residents, especially young adults, leaving urban areas and into the suburbs, as well as an increasing number of deaths, and a decrease in the number of births. However, the data shows that in light of the increased remoteness from major cities and metropolitan areas, the district has performed relatively well.

Looking at the rest of the states, the district’s population growth rate exceeded that of 36 other states, 16 of which lost their populations. Relative to population size, although DC had a negative national migration rate (per 1,000 population), it was less negative than that of 22 other states and it also had the third highest international migration rate among the states. In total, the net migration rate to the district was higher than that of 29 states. DC’s death rate was lower than that of 42 other states and its birth rate was higher than that of 44 states, making the district’s natural growth rate the fourth highest in the country.

These estimates cover the one-year period that ended in June 2020. Studies using change of address data have shown that moves increased in the second half of 2020. According to one of these studies, between 2019 and 2020, net out-migration in the district increased by 23 percent, and the net out-migration rate per 1,000 population increased from 5.3 to 7.2 for the largest metropolitan area. It is possible that the impact of COVID emigration will not become apparent until next year’s estimates.

Featured photo by Ted Eytan (source).


Sunaina B. Kathpalia is a research assistant at the DC Policy Center.

DC Policy Center Fellows are freelance writers and we welcome the expression of a variety of perspectives. The views of our fellows, published here or elsewhere, do not reflect the views of the DC Policy Center.


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