Florida saw a bigger jump in new residents than every state but one

Rob Wile
·2 min read

Florida has seen one of the nation’s biggest upticks in the number of new residents, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Sunshine State gained an estimated 241,256 residents from July 2019 to July 2020, the agency reported last week.

The coronavirus pandemic may have played a role in the boom, but it is too soon to say exactly how much it drove the increase. Only Texas saw a bigger jump, adding an estimated 373,965 residents. The data capture both migration trends and new births.

Multiple studies have put Florida metropolitan areas, including South Florida, on lists of cities that have seen the most population growth during the pandemic. The Miami Herald has also documented growing interest among both corporations and tech professionals in moving to the region in 2020.

Despite the increase, Florida’s growth rate during the Census’ survey period — 1.12% — was unchanged from the same period one year prior. The state that saw the highest growth in proportion to population size was Idaho.

Tracking COVID-19’s impact on migration is tricky.

Population analyst Wendell Cox with the Demographia consulting firm said the full impact of COVID-19 will not be known even when the results of the 2020 Census are published this spring because it only asked where individuals were living on April 1.

The new Census data show New York and New Jersey — states from which many new Floridians traditionally moved — experienced an accelerating population decline. But Cox said that may have been as much the result of rising housing costs as it was pandemic-related factors.

“That’s what’s driving migration,” he said. “People are moving out of the densest parts of urban areas because it’s getting too expensive.”

He pointed to California, which lost population for the first time in decades, and possibly at the highest number on record.

“They’ve destroyed their housing market,” he said. “People can’t afford to live there anymore — although it’s not an exodus.”

Cox warned the same fate could await parts of Florida, including South Florida, if it is unable to contain its housing prices.

“Local governments there have made it impossible to build on the urban fringe,” he said. While there are legitimate environmental concerns about doing so, he said, “the cost is to make cities more unaffordable and hurt poor people.”