People Are Abandoning These 3 States

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Population Stagnation

From the years 2010-2020, the United States population grew at the second-slowest rate since the U.S. Census Bureau started keeping track in 1790. The national population grew by 7.4%, a figure that is only slightly more than the 7.3% population increase from 1930 to 1940. Experts attribute the current slackening to an immigration slowdown and falling birth rates. Three states lost residents since 2010, while other areas of the country — the South and West — continue to see increasing population numbers. 

What does any of this mean? The census count is used to reallocate the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, and it helps decide where billions of dollars in federal funding are directed for programs focusing on education, housing, health care, and more. Keep reading to find out how much your state grew from 2010 to 2020 — with data provided by visualization service HiGeorge — as well as more historical data from each state since the 1970 census count. (You can explore the interactive version of HiGeorge's data visualization here.)

Related: Most Remote States in the U.S.

West Virginia Population Growth
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50. West Virginia

2010-2020 Population Change: -3.20%

The Mountain State was one of only three that saw its population decline between 2010 and 2020. According to a USA Today article, the reasons for this are primarily due to two factors: More people are moving away from a stagnant job market; and West Virginia is "only one of two states, including Maine, where deaths outpaced births over the last decade."

Related: This Is the Unhappiest State in America

Mississippi Population Growth
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49. Mississippi

2010-2020 Population Change: -0.20%

Between 2010-2020, Mississippi saw a population decline of just over 6,000 people. While that, of course, wasn't great news for some — one newspaper columnist wrote that "addressing rural issues and brain drain should be at the top of the state's priority list" — there was a silver lining. The Magnolia State diversified over the past decade, according to an analysis by The Associated Press, which noted that Mississippi had "gained nearly 20,000 Black residents, about 16,700 Hispanic residents and about 4,500 Asian residents. The number of people who identify themselves as being of two or more races increased by about 11,200." 

Related: This Is the Average Lifespan in Your State

Illinois Population Growth
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48. Illinois

2010-2020 Population Change: -0.14%

Rounding out the last of the three states to experience population loss since 2010, the Prairie State has a multitude of issues, noted the Chicago Tribune in a 2019 analysis of the situation. "Combine migration losses with an aging population, declining birth rates, and stagnated international migration, and the result is decreased population," the paper reported.

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Connecticut Population Growth
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47. Connecticut

2010-2020 Population Change: 0.89%

Long considered one of America's richest states, that reputation seems to be dwindling as Connecticut's growth has stagnated over the past decade. The Atlantic wrote about the trend in 2017, noting that — no surprise here — conservatives and liberals disagree over the reasons why population growth has stagnated, and that the real issues are likely much more nuanced. "High taxes, or even the reputation of high taxes, might be accelerating this population shift," the magazine reported. "But it's just one variable among many — including temperature, cost of living, and proximity to cities — that's pushing the entire U.S. population away from the sort of suburbs that define Connecticut."

Michigan Population Growth
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46. Michigan

2010-2020 Population Change: 1.96%

According to a the Christian Science Monitor, which quoted Bill Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, one explanation for the Wolverine State's slowing growth is its historically high unemployment. "It just has not been a good decade" for Michigan, Frey told the paper. "Morale isn't good there. People who are living there are concerned about the jobs going away. A lot of young people are leaving, and I think the census is a barometer of that."

Related: How Many Businesses Have Closed for Good in Your State

Ohio Population Growth
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45. Ohio

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.28%

Lee Hannah, an associate professor of political science at Wright State University, told the Dayton Daily News in 2021 that one reason for slower growth in Ohio is likely due to "the shift in the U.S. from a manufacturing intensive economy" to industries such as tourism, hospitality, finance, and technology. The story went on to note that the Buckeye State has one of the highest senior populations in the U.S., while states that saw growth typically have younger populations. 

Related: 25 Places in America With the Most Seniors

Wyoming Population Growth
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44. Wyoming

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.35%

Wyoming had the slowest population growth in the West, especially when compared with direct neighbors Idaho and Montana, both of which land in the top 15 of this list. The state's chief economist, Wenlin Liu, noted in a 2021 release that the trend was due to an economic downturn in the energy sector since the mid-2010s. "The economy nationwide, particularly in neighboring states such as Colorado, Utah, and Idaho showed strong expansions, which attracted many Wyoming energy workers and residents during the second half of the decade."

Pennsylvania Population Growth
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43. Pennsylvania

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.36%

Since the fall of the Keystone State's steel and auto industries, Pennsylvania's growth has been slowing, particularly in certain areas of the state. Noted the Pittsburgh Quarterly in a 2019 story about the state's population decline: "No major U.S. metropolitan area has lost more people and done so more consistently than southwestern Pennsylvania, which shed more than 400,000 from 1969 to 2017, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia."

Maine Population Growth
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42. Maine

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.56%

Outpaced in population growth by every other New England state except Connecticut, the Portland Press Herald noted that the latest census data was just a continuing trend, noting that "over the last several decades, Maine's population growth has consistently lagged behind the nation's." 

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Louisiana Population Growth
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41. Louisiana

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.74%

Allison Plyer, chief demographer for the Data Center in New Orleans, told in 2021 that the state's lack of significant growth was concerning. "Just in general Louisiana has not had robust population growth over the last several decades," she added. "Our economic development strategies are clearly not as robust or effective as some other states."

Vermont Population Growth
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40. Vermont

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.77%

While Vermont has been called "the best state in America," The Washington Post noted in 2019 that its flatlining population growth is no surprise to demographers, mostly due to an aging population. "Vermont is expected to lose people steadily until at least 2040, the most distant year the demographers dared predict," the paper reported, adding that factors such as low fertility and migration rates also play a role.

Missouri Population Growth
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39. Missouri

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.77%

The Show Me State clocked in at No. 21 on a MoneyWise list of "The States Americans Are Fleeing." Jobs are the No. 1 reason people relocate out of Missouri, the site reported. It further noted that "factories have been closing around Kansas City, causing that metro area to lose 1.9% of its manufacturing jobs over the past year," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Related: The States Where Most Americans Move After Packing a U-Haul

New Mexico Population Growth
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38. New Mexico

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.83%

Like Wyoming, New Mexico is another slow-growing Western state in a trend that sees more people moving to that region. But it should be noted, per a 2021 Associated Press report, that "roughly 43% of New Mexico's population — about 900,000 people — live in 'hard-to-count' areas." AP also noted that a report by legislative analysts found that out-migration and "a decrease of 19% in the birth rate contributed to the slow growth."

Kansas Population Growth
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37. Kansas

2010-2020 Population Change: 2.97%

Other than the state's population loss during and after the Great Depression, the 2020 Census numbers illuminated the Sunflower State's slowest population growth since 1910, the Topeka Capital-Journal noted in 2021.

Related: Which States Have the Highest Gas Bills?

Alaska Population Growth
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36. Alaska

2010-2020 Population Change: 3.26%

While Alaska's growth might not rank among the top states of the union, the state's demographers noted that its "count was slightly higher than what was predicted based on birth, death, and migration trends," according to a 2021 story from Alaska Public Media.

Arkansas Population Growth
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35. Arkansas

2010-2020 Population Change: 3.28%

Arkansas' growth kept it from losing any seats in Congress — one of 37 states to maintain that status quo — but it was one of the slower-growing states in a trend that sees more people moving to the South.

Wisconsin Population Growth
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34. Wisconsin

2010-2020 Population Change: 3.64%

While Wisconsin's growth landed a wide margin below the national average, it didn't lose any congressional seats or federal funding, factors that made some state residents happy. "The fact that we remained the 20th largest state, we didn't gain, we didn't lose, means that we're going to get the same proportion of money while Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania are going to lose money," UW-Milwaukee Professor Emeritus Mordecai Lee told a Milwaukee TV station in 2021.

Kentucky Population Growth
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33. Kentucky

2010-2020 Population Change: 3.84%

The Bluegrass State was another that saw its slowest population growth since the Great Depression years, and less than half its growth of 9.7% between 2000 and 2010, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Tom Sawyer of the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville told the paper that the stagnant growth was likely due to a few factors, including "a decline in births, an increase in deaths, and less net migration."

New York Population Growth
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32. New York

2010-2020 Population Change: 4.25%

Despite New York's seemingly modest population gains — more than 3 percentage points below the national average of 7.4% — The New York Times recently reported that the numbers were expected to be even lower. The paper called the results "a welcome surprise" that allowed the Empire State to "escape the stigma of being a low-growth or shrinking state." Still, the state is losing one congressional seat. If the state had 89 more people, it would not have lost the seat.

Rhode Island Population Growth
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31. Rhode Island

2010-2020 Population Change: 4.26%

The Boston Globe reported in April 2021 that residents of the Ocean State had "breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when the U.S. Census Bureau announced the state's population had grown enough to keep … two congressional seats." The paper further noted the state's dedicated efforts in reaching out to immigrant populations — "more than a year's worth of hard work to ensure … an accurate count."

New Hampshire Population Growth
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30. New Hampshire

2010-2020 Population Change: 4.64%

The fastest-growing New England state between 2000 and 2010, New Hampshire conceded that title to Massachusetts after the latest Census results were tallied and just eked out second place in that region over Rhode Island. Experts told the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2021 that the slower growth in the state can likely be attributed to deaths outpacing births, lower in-migration, and a limited housing supply. 

Related: American Jobs: 13 Industries Changed by Immigrant Crackdowns

Indiana Population Growth
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29. Indiana

2010-2020 Population Change: 4.65%

A census analysis from the Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business noted that the Hoosier State's growth was quite a bit lower than its "growth rate of 6.6% during the 2000s and 9.7% in the 1990s," as reported by the website Inside Indiana Business. "We're seeing a pretty stark decline in fertility rates, we're seeing slower migration to the state, and we're even seeing rising mortality rates. When we look at all the forces of population change, Indiana's kind of facing headwinds," noted Matt Kinghorn, the center's senior demographic analyst.

Iowa Population Growth
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28. Iowa

2010-2020 Population Change: 4.73%

While Iowa grew enough to keep its congressional seats, it wasn't enough to make business leaders and economists feel very rosy about the state's outlook. Joe Murphy, executive director of the Iowa Business Council, told the Des Moines Register that the state's dichotomy between ranking highly in manufacturing value while dropping rapidly in the rankings of "best-run states" was troubling. "That largely speaks to the fact that our population has become stagnant. So it's impossible for companies to create jobs if there aren't people to actually take those jobs," Murphy noted.

Alabama Population Growth
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27. Alabama

2010-2020 Population Change: 5.12%

While Alabama's growth falls below the national average as well as the growth of many of its neighboring states, state leaders were eager to consider the results a win, and one which allows the Cotton State to retain its seven congressional seats. "This data reveals what we've known all along – Alabama is a great state to call home, and many are choosing to do so," said Gov. Kay Ivey, who also touted the Alabama Counts! census campaign.

Oklahoma Population Growth
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26. Oklahoma

2010-2020 Population Change: 5.54%

The Sooner State gained around 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, which allowed it to keep its spot as the 28th largest state in the nation, noted The Oklahoman in a 2021 article.

New Jersey Population Growth
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25. New Jersey

2010-2020 Population Change: 5.65%

Before the U.S. Census Bureau released its final population figures, experts had predicted that the Garden State would come in quite a bit below its final official tally of 9.2 million residents, a missed prediction that site was happy to crow about. "Jersey beat those population predictions by 4.5% — a higher margin than all the other states," it noted.

California Population Growth
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24. California

2010-2020 Population Change: 6.13%

California's growth — slower than the national average and also slower than in past Census counts — means that for the first time since it became a state in 1850, it will lose a congressional seat. A 2021 Los Angeles Times column put that fault firmly in the lap of "exorbitant housing costs," while further noting the median home prices in three major metro areas: $750,000 in Los Angeles County, $835,000 in Orange County, and $1.4 million in San Francisco. 

Related: The Best and Worst Cities in America for Making Ends Meet

Hawaii Population Growth
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23. Hawaii

2010-2020 Population Change: 6.98%

Although Hawaii's decadelong growth approached the national average of 7.4%, the Census Bureau noted in 2019 that the Aloha State's population was more than 1% down from 2015, which could show a troubling trend. Economists have blamed slowed growth on "Oahu's high cost of living and the existence of better job opportunities in mainland states," noted Hawaii Public Radio.

Maryland Population Growth
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22. Maryland

2010-2020 Population Change: 6.99%

The Baltimore Sun recently released a "user's guide" to the census data and noted a couple of key takeaways: One, Maryland's growth rate over the past 10 years was the slowest it's been since the 1830s; and two, Baltimore's 2019 population dropped below 600,000 for the first time in more than 100 years. Even given these factors, Maryland jumped up one spot to the 18th most populous state from the 19th.

Massachusetts Population Growth
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21. Massachusetts

2010-2020 Population Change: 7.37%

The Bay State is the first on this list to pretty much fall in line with the national population growth of 7.4%. "We were relieved ... Today is good news for Massachusetts," said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, while the Boston Globe reported that the figure was the "largest increase of any New England state over the last 10 years."

Nebraska Population Growth
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20. Nebraska

2010-2020 Population Change: 7.40%

Bucking much of the national trend, "Nebraska grew faster over the past 10 years than it has in most decades since the early 1900s," noted the Lincoln Journal-Star. The paper also reported that David Drozd, a research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, attributed most of the Cornhusker State's population growth to births exceeding deaths — by more than 98,000 over the past 10 years — while also noting that outside residents moving to Nebraska played a role.

Minnesota Population Growth
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19. Minnesota

2010-2020 Population Change: 7.59%

While the Land of 10,000 Lakes exceeded the national average, Minnesota's state demographer Susan Brower told NPR that her state's growth still almost wasn't enough to guarantee no congressional seats would be lost. "We found that had Minnesota counted 26 fewer residents that we would have lost that eighth congressional district," she said. "I knew it was going to be very tight, but I just didn't think it could possibly come out to be that close."

Virginia Population Growth
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18. Virginia

2010-2020 Population Change: 7.88%

While Virginia's population growth outpaced the national average, Qian Cai, the director of the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, told the Culpeper Star-Exponent that the state's figures still represented a decline in growth from previous counts. "That's much slower growth than the two decades prior for Virginia. It's lower population growth and also a lower rate of growth," Cai said. It was also, she noted, close to what experts had projected.

Tennessee Population Growth
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17. Tennessee

2010-2020 Population Change: 8.90%

Tim Kuhn, director of the Tennessee State Data Center, noted that while the Volunteer State's growth was somewhat less of that than previous decades, it "did exceed the precensus estimate of an 8.3% increase."

South Dakota Population Growth
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16. South Dakota

2010-2020 Population Change: 8.90%

While South Dakota saw growth a full percentage point and a half higher than the national average, it remains the fifth least-populated state in the nation and will therefore not gain any congressional seats. Still, it outpaced the growth of neighboring states such as Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

North Carolina Population Growth
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15. North Carolina

2010-2020 Population Change: 9.48%

The Tar Heel State's growth — nearly 1 million new residents — was enough to earn it a 14th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, one of 13 states to gain or lose congressional representation.

Montana Population Growth
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14. Montana

2010-2020 Population Change: 9.58%

An Associated Press analysis of Montana's population growth noted that the new census figures mean that the Treasure State "will go from being the least represented state in the union — with close to a million people in the single congressional district in 2010 — to the most well-represented. The state now has just over half a million state residents per representative after the 2020 census, significantly lower than the national average population per representative of 760,000." The story further noted that "Montana's growth has been led by towns known for their proximity to outdoor recreation, including Bozeman, Missoula, and Kalispell."

Delaware Population Growth
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13. Delaware

2010-2020 Population Change: 10.25%

The first state on this list to reach double-digit growth, Delaware leaders attributed the "remarkable" census results to putting an "incredible amount of effort into our hard-to-reach populations," and noted that the new figures would bring in more federal funding for areas such as education, agriculture, and health care. The Diamond State, notably, was first among Northeastern states in population growth. 

Related: Best and Worst States for Teacher Pay

Georgia Population Growth
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12. Georgia

2010-2020 Population Change: 10.57%

Georgia grew by nearly 1 million residents since 2010, a fact not so surprising given reports that the Peach State had eight of the country's fastest-growing cities. Still, it was not enough for the state to add a congressional seat, noted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, making it the first time since 1990 that hasn't happened.

Oregon Population Growth
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11. Oregon

2010-2020 Population Change: 10.60%

According to WalletHub, Oregon has the second-fastest growing city in the U.S. in Bend, a trend that only continued in 2020 despite the pandemic. According to Portland TV station KATU, the midsize city earned the nickname Zoom Town after it saw "a spike in newly mobile workers who moved there after discovering they could do their jobs remotely in 2020." KATU further noted that, per an annual study from United Van Lines examining where people are moving to and away from, "62.5% of all moves in Oregon were from people coming into the state as opposed to those moving out, making it the third-highest rate in the nation."

South Carolina Population Growth
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10. South Carolina

2010-2020 Population Change: 10.66%

According to a January 2021 report by The State also based on the United Van Lines study, the Palmetto State was the second most popular moving destination of 2020. The report further outlined the reasons people move to South Carolina: "The No. 1 reason … was retirement, accounting for 38% of inbound migration. Work followed at 26% — although roughly 43% of those who left South Carolina in 2020 did so for the same reason, the study found. Family came next at 19%, and lifestyle with 18%."

Related: America's Healthiest States for Seniors, Ranked

Arizona Population Growth
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9. Arizona

2010-2020 Population Change: 11.88%

While Arizona's census figures exceeded the national average, they fell quite a bit below estimates — enough to "stun" experts, many of whom believed that the state would gain a House seat (it had at every Census count in the prior 70 years, according to the Arizona Mirror).

Florida Population Growth
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8. Florida

2010-2020 Population Change: 14.56%

Already a political juggernaut, the Sunshine State's growth was enough to add an additional congressional seat, bringing the total number to 28. And, like South Carolina, the 2020 United Van Lines report cites retirement as the No. 1 reason people move to Florida (39%) followed by jobs (23%) lifestyle (21%), and family (17%).

Related: The Most Popular Towns for Retirees Moving Away From Cities

Washington Population Growth
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7. Washington

2010-2020 Population Change: 14.58%

Washington was part of the trend that saw more people moving into the West and Pacific Northwest, with the state adding nearly 1 million residents since 2010.

Colorado Population Growth
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6. Colorado

2010-2020 Population Change: 14.80%

Numbers in Colorado, the first of the states in this list to reach double the national average population growth, are likely due in part to growing technology and telecommunications sectors, a CBS Denver TV station noted in 2021. More credit went to the quality of life and diversity of jobs in industries including "aerospace, bioscience, information technologies, and financial services."

Nevada Population Growth
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5. Nevada

2010-2020 Population Change: 14.96%

A KTNV news report in 2021 noted that many of Nevada's new residents are coming "principally from California," where housing costs have slowed growth over the past decade. "There are enough people moving from what is the seventh-largest economy and coming across the border to the state of Nevada," the station learned from Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas-based team of quantitative analysts. "Their small decline is our large increase, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon."

North Dakota Population Growth
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4. North Dakota

2010-2020 Population Change: 15.83%

The Peace Garden State's population grew by more than 100,000 in the years between 2010 to 2020, which one local news outlet noted was "the fastest population growth the state has seen in more than a century." The number surprised even the manager of North Dakota's Census Office, who told the outlet he "had guessed about 10,000 less than that."

Texas Population Growth
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3. Texas

2010-2020 Population Change: 15.91%

When the results of the 2020 Census were released, some of the biggest news was that Texas would be gaining two congressional seats. Texas' burgeoning population has been concentrated mainly in metro areas, particularly Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. In a recent Washington Post story, the paper reported that much of the Lone Star State's growth has to do with a "sturdy economic growth engine" grounded in the expected — oil, trade, and transportation, yes — but also in a more diverse range of industries, as well as business-friendly policies and lack of individual state income tax. 

Related: The Best and Worst States for Middle-Class Taxpayers

Idaho Population Growth
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2. Idaho

2010-2020 Population Change: 17.32%

Many of Idaho's new residents are coming from California and New York, according to a February 2021 story from CNN. Mark Jenkins, a Seattle consultant aerospace engineer who moved to Idaho in 2020, told the news site that he calls it "the Boise land rush … I've never seen so much construction. Not just houses. Schools. Roads. Hospitals. Churches. It is exciting."

Utah Population Growth
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1. Utah

2010-2020 Population Change: 18.37%

The Beehive State was the fastest-growing of all states in the decade between 2010 and 2020, a development that didn't come as a shock to those who know the state well. Tweeted Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson: "It's no surprise that Utah was the fastest-growing state in the nation over the last decade. Our beautiful landscapes, business and family-friendly policies, and endless opportunities are hard to beat."