Population Migration Since 1990: Wyoming and Selected States

by:Tom Gallagher

Wyoming's population has grown by 5.9 percent since the decennial census of 1990. According to data released by the Census Bureau at the end of January, Wyoming's population has grown slightly faster than the neighboring states of Nebraska and South Dakota. The fact that growth has taken place is somewhat less interesting than how it has happened and what the nature of growth suggests about current demand and supply in the labor market.

Population change takes shape around two principles: (1) deaths subtracted from births, also called natural increase and (2) migration. In the rapidly growing state of Colorado, most growth is explained by in-migration to the state and only 34.9 percent by the net of births over deaths. Interstate migrants in recent history have been dominated by the 20 to 34 year old age group (Bureau of the Census, Geographical Mobility, Series P-20). Consequently, while interstate migration comes from all age groups, migration is generally dominated by individuals who have just completed or are completing their education and who are beginning to establish their careers in the labor market.

In contrast, Wyoming's population growth since the beginning of the decade has been dominated by natural increase. For example, from July 1994 to July 1995, 70.3 percent of the population change came about as the result of the birth of 6,407 persons. Population change as a result of natural increase results in the demand for specialized health care, day care services, and education services and employment as the 34,923 persons born between Census Day (April 1, 1990) and July of 1995 mature during the balance of this decade. The demand for housing in most parts of the state is much less a demand created by migrants from other states as it is a demand for housing related to changes in family size and age/sex composition.

Although certain parts of the state may indeed be undergoing change as a result of non-resident in-migration, net migration has averaged under 1,300 persons per year since the beginning of the decade (see Table: "Natural Population Change 1994-95"). Thus, while some in-migrating individuals may participate in the labor force, it is clear that the supply of labor now available to communities and employers is essentially represented by the same labor force that was available at the beginning of the decade. Population change in Wyoming, like those found in the slower growth neighboring states of South Dakota and Nebraska, means something quite different for supply and demand in the labor market than does the more rapid population growth found in other neighboring states.

Tom Gallagher is the Manager of Research & Planning.

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