The U. S. Census Bureau, for some unknown reason, uses the days immediately before Christmas each year to release their annual Population Estimates. For a lot of years, those of us in Louisiana who study such things have learned to brace for this yearly lump, or bagful, of coal. Even Jindal Claus can’t HO! HO! HO! our way out of what the numbers continue to tell us.
In the spirit of the season, I first note the mainly good news: in the two years plus between the April 1, 2010 Census data and these July 1, 2012 official Estimates, Louisiana notched an increase of 68,521 residents, putting our state population at 4,601,893. Not so good news is that this 1.48% increase lags behind the nation’s growth during that period of 1.65%, and that the 2.30% gain in the Census Bureau’s South Region of states is more than 1 1/2-times Louisiana’s.
Over a longer and much more meaningful period – the 32-plus years between the 1980 Census and these July 2012 estimates – Louisiana’s population has grown a paltry 8.6%, eating the dust of the nation’s 38.6% head-count jump over that period. Put another way, the nation’s population increase has averaged 1.21% a year, compared to Louisiana’s 0.27%. Since Dave Treen’s 1980 inauguration as governor, America’s population grew 4.5-times faster than Louisiana’s.
Since Bobby Jindal was sworn in he has laid claim to population change numbers as a favorite metric in his self-imagined / self-sworn transformation of Louisiana into nirvana among the states. His choice of these data is based in the “population growth” chimera created as former residents left, then returned, after hurricanes Katrina / Rita (Gustav / Ike). (When Jindal is done claiming storm returnees as “population growth,” he might next tell us our national debt doesn’t matter because we print our own money.) Jindal’s fuzzy governing notwithstanding, these new data confirm the durability of our population stagnation, its demographic causes, and our complete failure to accordingly reshape public policy. Examples are many, including the following couple.
(1) Of Louisiana’s total population gain of 68,521 residents during this two-year-plus period, nearly three-fourths, 71.1% (48,691 people), is from our bedrock “natural increase” of births-minus-deaths. The remaining 19,435 are from “net migration,” the count of those who moved in less those who cashed-in their chips and left. Of those, 69.3% (13,470) moved here from foreign countries.
For states in close proximity to Mexico, these “new residents” are thought of as a statistical proxy for workers – documented or undocumented – drawn to states by, for example, hurricane rebuilding. In fact, in my post-Katrina analysis of 2006-2007 American Community Survey data which I shared in writing and speaking around the state, only 7.4% of those who moved here from a different state were Hispanic / Latino, and only 5.6% of those who left here to move to another state self-identified as that ethnicity. But, a much higher percentage of those who moved here “from abroad” – 25.7% – were Hispanic / Latino.
If these highly mobile foreign in-migrants are removed, Louisiana “grew” by only 5,965 residents – barely more than one-tenth-of-one-percent (0.13%) – in the 27 months April 2010 through July 2012.
(2) The net loss of residents who vote with their feet and move out of Louisiana has been our curse for over 30 years: during the 32 1/4-years since April 1980, we have net outmigrated 608,262 residents – an average of 18,861 people every year … 52 a day … 2.2 each hour. (1980 state population total + total natural increase – July 2012 total population.)
My good friend C. B. Forgotston steadfastly reminds us of our state’s related and fundamental disconnect between the unending assertions by Jindal & Crew that our state’s economy is booming and the steady refutation of such by official data detailing shortfalls in our individual (and corporate) income tax receipts. Such lagging revenue underpins the death-by-a-thousand-cuts budget slashing necessary every year for the past five.
It doesn’t seem a stretch to surmise that the continuing disappearance of tax revenue is to a notable degree related to our longtime, giant-sucking-sound loss of residents who can and might pay those taxes.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.