More Of Us Than Ever State Population Continues Growth,
Exceeds 3.5 Million
By MIKE SWIFT, Courant Staff Writer
Connecticut's population topped 3.5
million people for the first time in 2004, with the state adding
nearly as many people during the past four years as it added during
the entire 1990s, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting today.
Relative to the previous three years,
Connecticut's growth slowed this past year, but the state still
added more people than any of its New England neighbors and more
even than much larger New York state, according to the new population
The nearly 100,000 people that the
Census Bureau estimates that Connecticut added between 2000 and
2004 is only 18,000 below the state's population growth between
1990 and 2000, when Connecticut was one of the nation's slowest
During the first three years of the
decade, between July 2000 and July 2003, the state added more than
20,000 people each year. The Census Bureau said that growth moderated
during the past year, as Connecticut added roughly 16,600 people,
a 0.5 percent gain, between July 2003 and July 2004.
That population growth compared to
14,600 people in New York and 4,500 in Rhode Island. Massachusetts
lost about 4,000 people, making it the only state to suffer a population
decline last year, according to the estimates.
"Connecticut doesn't look like
the rest of New England," said Orlando Rodriguez, a demographic
researcher at the Center for Population Research at the University
of Connecticut. "It's not. It's more like New Jersey."
Connecticut's gains, however, were
a fraction of those in the fastest growing states; Nevada added
about 92,000 people in the past year, growing by 4.1 percent, the
fastest percentage growth in the nation.
Connecticut's population gains are
being driven by the strong growth among Latinos and Asians, who
together are accounting for much of the state's growth, census estimates
released earlier this year show. Their gains are likely a combination
of people migrating to Connecticut from abroad and from other states,
particularly the New York City area, as well as births in Connecticut,
"Connecticut seems to be geographically
a good place [for Asians] because it is close to New York,"
said Angela Rola, director of the Asian-American Cultural Center
Aspects of that growth include the
migration of ethnic Chinese to southeastern Connecticut casino jobs;
Asian Indians drawn to Hartford County by medical and high-tech
jobs, and Filipinos being attracted by health care jobs and the
military, Rola said.
Less clear within the state's new population
total was the meaning - and perhaps the accuracy - of the new federal
In general, a growing population is
good news for a state's economy, reflecting the perception that
there is economic opportunity in the places attracting people, and
fueling economic growth. But the census estimates, which show solid
population growth during the same years that the state is down 54,000
jobs, also raise a thorny question:
"We can't have a declining labor
force and a growing population. Generally, those two wouldn't go
together," said Ron Van Winkle, a West Hartford economist.
Van Winkle said that during the 1990s,
the Census Bureau's population estimates - a statistical model based
on births, deaths and migration data - turned out to be lower than
the actual population the agency counted in the 2000 Census. Most
economic data, he said, suggest the bureau's estimates could be
off the mark again, this time in the opposite direction.
"Most of the things you look at
suggest a population that is more stable, with small growth in it,
rather than one that would suggest robust growth," Van Winkle
With the oldest of the Baby Boomers
approaching retirement, whatever population growth Connecticut is
enjoying now may not last, said Edward J. Deak, an economics professor
at Fairfield University.
"I just don't see a lot of reason
for Connecticut even to be in the middle of the pack [among states]
in terms of population growth," Deak said.
By percentage, New Hampshire remained
the fastest growing New England state, adding about 11,000 people
last year, a 0.8 percent jump - many of them apparently former Massachusetts
residents, experts said.
Migration to neighboring New Hampshire
and Rhode Island is one cause of the population loss in Massachusetts,
said Steve Coelen, the former director of the Massachusetts Institute
for Social & Economic Research.
Officials in northeastern Connecticut
also say they have noted an influx of people from Greater Boston
seeking lower housing prices south of the border.
That migration, along with a slow economy
and the tightening of visa restrictions after 9/11 that may make
it tougher for foreign students to enroll in Massachusetts universities,
are all driving the Bay State's population drop, Coelen said.
"It's not a surprise," Coelen
said of the census estimates.
Rodriguez, the UConn population researcher,
said Connecticut is more like New Jersey than other New England
states because it has cities such as Hartford with intense poverty,
and because of the more diverse ethnic and immigrant mix of two
One worrisome fact the Center for Population
Research uncovered in its analysis of the 2000 Census was that much
of Connecticut's population growth was coming in poorer "urban
periphery" towns such as Manchester and East Hartford.
If that growth among poor people has
continued in the current decade, it's not good news, Rodriguez said.
"People may say that [population
growth] means we're growing economically," he said. "Not
necessarily. It could be a bad indicator."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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