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New York’s population rises, remains fourth in U.S., census says

New York saw its population grow to 19.8 million and remain fourth nationally as births outpaced deaths and international migration helped stave off the loss of residents to other parts of the country, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The agency’s latest estimates leave the state in the same position since Florida supplanted it last year as the third most populous state. The period measured was from July 1, 2014, to July 1 of this year.

New York’s total population grew by nearly 47,000 residents, or a rate increase of 2.4 per 1,000 residents, in the 12 months studied.

“These numbers are consistent with what the state has been experiencing for a number of years, which is modest population growth, driven primarily by natural increase,” said Christopher Jones, research vice president at the Regional Plan Association, a Manhattan-based advocacy organization that studies development issues in the metropolitan area.

Jones believes the population trend should be viewed in a regional context. He noted that downstate areas, including New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, have a vibrant economy that has spurred growth and attracted people, while upstate struggles with economic woes. Across the state, the lack of affordable housing remains “a constraint” on growth, he said.

States to the south, mostly along the I-95 corridor, continued to surge in numbers as people opted for warmer climates, the estimates show.

Delaware, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina all saw population rate increases in the double digits. Texas added a whopping 18 new people per 1,000 residents, or more than 490,000 people.

The figures back “a trend that’s been going on a long time” of Northeast residents moving to the South, said Jan K. Vink, researcher at the Program on Applied Demographics at Cornell University in Ithaca.

But as that trend goes, Vink said, New York did well in seeing a population rise that surpassed New Jersey’s and made it second in the Northeast only to Massachusetts. Other cold-weather states lost residents.

“You have two components to population change: One is the natural increase, where we compare births and deaths, which is positive in New York State, and then you have the net migration, or the difference between people arriving and people leaving the state,” Vink said. “The natural increase in New York in the last year was around 84,000 and net migration was negative 24,000.”

The state’s population growth was part of an overall national trend of increased population for the period studied. But even adding about 129 residents a day was not enough for New York to overcome the gains of Florida, which saw a population jump of more than 365,000 residents to reach 20.3 million.

The yearly estimates, which look at births, deaths and migration to come up with a net figure for each state, found the fastest-growing state was North Dakota, with a rate of 22.6 new residents per 1,000 to put its population at nearly 757,000. North Carolina surpassed the 10 million population mark.

California is the state with the most people, at 39.1 million and growing. Texas ranks second with 27.5 million residents.

One significant factor in the national population rise of 2.5 million for the period was the return of immigration to pre-recession levels, as 1.2 million people settled in the United States in the past year, said William H. Frey, demographer and senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program of The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The last time immigration reached that pace was in the period from 2001 to 2002, Frey said.

“There are more births than immigrants, but the uptick in immigration has helped the growth along,” Frey said. “More importantly, I think it’s an indicator that the economy is coming back,” which he said also is reflected in a slight increase in births.

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