Migration Factors into Idaho’s Newest Population Estimates

Migration, both international and domestic, drove Idaho’s significant population growth prior to the recession, but home equity erosion, a stagnant real estate market and lost jobs slowed Idaho’s population growth.

2012 Median Age

Even as other states lose population, Idaho’s has continued to grow at a much slower rate, but that growth has been natural – births exceeding deaths in a state where the median age of 35.2 years, more than two years below the national median age. Utah with its larger families has the lowest median age among the states and the District of Columbia. Like Idaho, both North Dakota and California are states that see high levels of migration, based on driver’s license data from the Idaho Department of Transportation. Idahoans have looked to North Dakota for jobs while Californians have looked to Idaho for its quality of life and comparatively low housing prices.

In addition to charting demographic change, the Census Bureau’s annual population estimates are used by federal agencies to allocate funding and serve as a cornerstone of vital statistics, critical to calculating per capita rates for state-to-state comparisons.

Population Shifts

During the economic expansion that preceded the recession, Idaho’s annual population growth was the result of migration from other states. In 2007, the peak of the expansion, Idaho’s population increased 35,524, with 60 percent of that due to migration from other states and some foreign countries. In 2013 the population grew by just 16,546, less than half of 2007’s growth, with 66 percent due to natural conditions – births exceeding deaths.

Growth declined dramatically in all six regions of the state prior to and after the recession and southeastern Idaho saw an actual decline in population from 2012 to 2013.

Southwestern Idaho – which accounts for 45 percent of the state’s total population – remained the population magnet, accounting for 75 percent of the 2013 increase. That dominance reflected in part the unevenness of the recovery compared to the broader reach of the mid-2000s expansion, when in 2007, southwestern Idaho accounted for only 60 percent of the population increase.
2007 2013 annual pop change

Northern Idaho contributed 13 percent to the state’s growth in 2007 and 2013 despite unemployment rates over 10 percent in both Shoshone and Benewah counties, where population actually declined in 2013.

North central Idaho continued to avoid wide statistical swings. Its contribution to population growth was only fractionally larger in 2013 than in 2007. The University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College continue to attract college students but not at the same rate as Boise State University, and fewer University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark graduates remain in the area.

South central Idaho experienced the least erosion in prerecession growth, increasing its contribution to the state’s overall growth in 2013 by more than a third.

In eastern and southeastern Idaho, cutbacks at the Idaho National Laboratory were offset by strength in agriculture and higher education.

Pie chart

Regionally, outmigration appeared linked to local layoffs and business closures although in some areas an increase in births helped offset the outmigration. Overall, the number of deaths statewide increased 9 percent, or nearly 1,000, between 2007 and 2013 while the number of births declined 9.5 percent, or by more than 2,000, indicating the aging of the state’s population.

first bar chart

second bar chart

While the vast majority of migration to Idaho has been from other states, Ada County, the state’s largest, typically draws the most international migrants. In 2013 the number of international migrants was nearly 100 higher than in 2007. Twin Falls County also saw an increase in international migrants, enough to exceed the number recorded in Canyon County. Canyon and Minidoka counties, both with heavy concentrations of Hispanics – many involved in agriculture – recorded declines in international migration from 2007 to 2013. So did Bonneville, Blaine, Jerome, Latah, Bannock and Bingham counties. Elmore, Kootenai and Gem counties all saw an increase.

10 counties table

The Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project reported the amount of money being earned in the United States and sent back to family members in Mexico declined 29 percent to $22 billion from 2006 to 2013. In other Latin American countries these so-called remittances returned to prerecession levels.

During the recession, immigration from Mexico reportedly declined for any number of reasons including adverse economic conditions and increased border enforcement, impacting counties like Canyon, Blaine and Jerome, where the Hispanic population is over 20 percent, twice or more the statewide percentage. Colleges and universities like those in Bannock and Latah counties may also see declines in international enrollment.

In south central Idaho, anchored by Twin Falls County, there has been marked foreign investment by companies like Glanbia of Ireland, McCain Foods of Canada and Frulact of Portugal while Canyon County is seeing investments from companies such as Sorrento Lactalis of Italy and Materne of France. These businesses combined with refugee centers located in Boise and Twin Falls foster international migration, increasing Idaho’s diversity.

Components of Pop by County

County populations 2006-2007

Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 735-2500, ext. 3639