About a year ago, we had noticed that Louisiana’s population had grown 2% between April 1, 2010 (the date the Census was last taken) and July 1, 2013. This past week, the Census released population estimates by county/parish as of July 1, 2014, and Louisiana (slow) population growth continued – the 2014 estimate showed there were 4,649,676 Louisianians (in other words, a 2.6% increase since the 2010 Census), which means that if this rate of population growth were to continue, Louisiana’s 2020 Census population would be 4,807,028, or a 6.0% population growth rate by the 2020 Census. While this rate of growth is slower than the United States as a whole (nationally, the 2010-2014 rate of growth was 3.3%), it is sufficient for Louisiana not to have to worry about losing another Congressional seat in 2020. Plus, given the rates of growth Louisiana has seen over the past few decades, an estimated 6.0% growth rate is one that the state has not seen since the 1970s.
At the parish level, 37 of its 64 parishes lost population – Caddo, Sabine, and Vernon parishes “joined the club”, while Grant Parish is now a population gainer. In general, it was again the parishes along the I-10/12 corridor between Lafayette and Slidell that were the fastest growing. And just like the 2013 population estimates, Orleans and St Bernard Parishes (which saw heavy population losses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina) remained the fastest growing parishes in Louisiana between 2013 and 2014. In fact, 42% of Louisiana’s population growth since 2010 has come from these two parishes alone.
These population shifts have political implications, even if the effects won’t technically be felt until the Congressional/legislative reapportionment that will be done before the 2023 statewide elections. At the present rate of growth/resettlement, we project that Orleans and St Bernard Parishes will “recapture” two of the four state House seats that were eliminated during 2011 reapportionment. Furthermore, robust population growth also means that parishes along the I-10/12 corridor (Lafayette, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, and St Tammany) are likely to gain 1-2 state House seats.
Since the state House is fixed at 105 seats, those gains have to be offset somewhere. Currently, it looks like Caddo and Jefferson Parishes could lose a seat apiece, with any further offsetting losses coming from the rural parishes. However, it’s important to emphasize that nothing is final until the April 1, 2020 count (the July 1, 2014 figure was an estimate), and internal House (and Senate) politics can and will play a large part in determining the specific seats that are added or eliminated.