It’s a shame the Census waited until last week before releasing the latest state-by-state numbers on population growth and loss, and specifically on factors like outmigration, because had those numbers been known back in November they might have affected the results of the gubernatorial election.
Not that any of this was a surprise. Sometimes, though, people just need to see things in black and white before they register.
First, there is this…
Louisiana was among 10 states to lose population over the past year and one of four to lose more than 10,000 residents, according to recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, contributing to what analysts say has been a decade with perhaps the slowest U.S. population growth.
Overall, Louisiana saw the fourth-largest population loss in the country from 2018 to 2019, losing 10,896 residents—a 0.2% decrease. The only states to lose more residents throughout the year were New York (-76,790), Illinois (-51,250) and West Virginia (-12,144).
What’s delivered a crushing blow to Louisiana—along with 26 other states and Washington, D.C.—is net domestic migration, or the difference between domestic in-migration to an area and domestic out-migration from the same area during a specified time period.
Six of those states reported losses of over 25,000, with three experiencing losses greater than 100,000. Louisiana’s net domestic migration loss (-26,045) was the sixth-highest in the country, after California (-203,414), New York (-180,649), Illinois (-104,986), New Jersey (-48,946) and Massachusetts (-30,274).
Louisiana’s losses happened as population grew in 40 other states and Washington, D.C. Moreover, the South saw the largest numeric growth (1,011,015) and percentage growth (0.8%) in the U.S., driven mainly by natural increase (the number of births minus deaths—359,114) and net domestic migration (407,913) into those areas.
Texas saw the largest spike (367,215) and Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee also were in the top 10. Meanwhile, the West dominated percentage population growth, led by Idaho (2.1%) and followed by Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
So the number from July 2018 to July 2019 was 26,000 people lost.
From July 2017-July 2018 it was 28,000 people lost.
From July 2016-July 2017 it was 27,500 people lost.
And from July 2015-July 2016 it was 11,000 people lost.
What’s that come to? Just under 93,000 people in net outmigration.
In four years.
We’re counting six months in which Edwards wasn’t actually governor but running as part of this total, but that was in the year with the best numbers of the four. If the current pace keeps up, the six months between July 2019 and his inauguration next week will all but surely show more net outmigration than the six months between July 2015 and his first inauguration did.
In fact, Edwards’ real net outmigration number for his first term almost certainly will top 100,000 people.
If Joe Six Pack who might have pulled a lever for Edwards’ re-election in November knew that he was voting for a man who had, on balance, run off 100,000 people in this state, would Edwards have been re-elected?
Given the poor quality of Eddie Rispone’s campaign’s messaging, it’s entirely possible. But 100,000 people is a pretty big number, psychologically speaking. When you start talking about losing essentially a Tiger Stadium full of people over the course of a governor’s term, it’s a compelling bit of data.
Of course, the election is over and nothing can be done about Edwards getting a second term now. The real question is what is this man going to do about the outmigration problem?
Worse, does he even care?
Generally speaking, the people leaving Louisiana aren’t welfare recipients existing on food stamps, Section 8 housing and Medicaid. Studies show on a consistent basis those people are the least geographically mobile people there are, which is dumb considering those are the folks who probably would benefit most by a change of scenery and a fresh start. No, the people leaving are the upwardly mobile – the young, recent college graduates, the people with marketable skills seeking a better market to offer them in.
And on balance, those are not people who are John Bel Edwards’ core voters.
So it’s entirely possible he doesn’t want to do anything about the outmigration problem. Running off opposition voters might be the best and only thing the Louisiana Democrat Party has going for it in its attempts to become competitive statewide in more than a one-off electoral contest.
We’ll find out when the new legislature is seated next week and the next legislative session gets going in the spring. If Edwards is willing to work with the conservative majority in that legislature, we’ll know he gives a damn about the future of the state. If all he wants to do is fight, we’ll know he’s perfectly fine with ruling over a ruin.