Florida poised to become third most-populous state

12/27/2013 5:35 PM

12/28/2013 9:39 AM

For Florida, the population estimates set to be released Monday could come with a side of bragging rights.

This may finally be the year Florida overcomes New York as the nation’s third most-populous state.

“If Florida surpassed New York in the near future, it wouldn’t be a surprise,” said Stan Smith, director of the Population Program in the University of Florida’s Bureau of of Economic and Business Research. "We’ve been gaining on New York for a long time."

Andrew Beveridge, a Census expert and Queens College professor, said Florida’s ascent was inevitable: “If it hadn’t been for the financial crisis, Florida probably would have already passed New York.”

When the last round of figures were released in 2012, the two states were practically even.

But with 19.6 million people, New York held onto the third place. Florida, with its population of 19.3 million, settled for fourth.

That could change Monday, when the U.S. Census Bureau releases updated figures.

Demographers are basing their predictions on past growth rates. Florida has seen a steady increase. Between April 2010 and July 2012, the state’s annual growth rate was 2.7 percent — a full percentage point higher than the national average.

The surge was fueled by cities like Orlando, which grew at an annual rate of 4.7 percent.

Counties like Miami-Dade and Hillsborough played a part, too, growing at 3.8 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

Smith, of the University of Florida, attributes the growth to two principal factors: economic growth and retiree migration.

“Florida has added a lot of jobs over the years, which have certainly attracted people,” Smith said. “There have also been a lot of retirees moving to Florida. They are attracted by the climate, as well as the recreational opportunities and the relatively low tax rates.”

The steady flow of people from Latin American has provided an additional boost.

New York State, meanwhile, grew at an annual rate of 1 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to the Census Bureau.

The uptick was due in part to a population increase in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. But the growth was offset by cities like Buffalo and Syracuse, which have seen their numbers dip.

“New York would probably grow at a reasonable rate if it sawed off Upstate,” said Beveridge.

It won’t help if New Yorkers continue moving to the Sunshine State, as University of Miami professor Ira Sheskin predicts.

“The Jewish baby boomers are starting to retire,” said Sheskin, who studies the demographics of the American Jewish community. “There will still be as many, if not more, Jews coming to South Florida than in the past.”

Florida’s population increase is welcome news to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who sees it as an outgrowth of the state’s economic climate.

“Florida is on a roll,” Scott wrote in a statement. “Cutting taxes and reducing red tape on businesses is a great catalyst for economic opportunity and job creation."

Despite the growth, Florida isn’t likely to sail into first or second place anytime soon.

With more than 38 million residents in 2012, California has the clear edge over every other state in the union.

The runner-up is Texas, with a population of 26 million.

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