Recently, the US Census released interim population estimates showing population changes for all 50 states between April 2, 2010 (the date of the last Census) and July 1, 2012. While this interim count is an estimate, it is useful for tracking population changes throughout the decade to be able to predict future population/demographic changes.
Overall, the Census estimates were, for once, favorable to Louisiana with regards to population growth. Between 2010 and 2012, its population grew 1.5%, and its estimated population as of July 1, 2012 was 4,601,893. While 1.5% would not seem like much, it’s important to remember that for the previous three decades, Louisiana has shown very little population growth. If this 1.5% rate of growth were to sustain itself for the remainder of this decade, Louisiana’s 2010 Census population would be about 8% higher than it was in 2010 – a growth rate not seen since the 1970s.
If one were to look at the parish level, 33 of its 64 parishes saw population losses. By and large, those population losing parishes were not adjacent to a metropolitan area and were not along a major highway. Furthermore, heavy suburban migration into St Tammany, Livingston, Ascension, and Bossier Parishes has continued – those parishes grew more than twice as fast as Louisiana did during the 2010-2012 period.
The Census data did have something unusual (but not really surprising) to tell us: the parishes that saw the greatest devastation (and, consequently, significant population losses between 2005 and 2010) from Hurricane Katrina posted strong population gains between 2010 and 2012. Saint Bernard Parish saw a 16% population increase (the largest percentage increase of any parish), while Orleans Parish saw a 7% population increase (this was the second largest percentage increase). While these population increases are impressive considering what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it’s important to understand that these population gains are most likely a continuing resettlement into these areas.
So why are these Census figures significant? Ultimately, the composition of the US House of Representatives, the state legislature, and local governmental bodies depends on where the population is/how it is distributed. And in the case of the 2012 Census estimates, we calculate that the population growth in Orleans and Saint Bernard Parishes is significant enough for it to “recapture” one of the four House seats that was eliminated during the 2011 reapportionment.