The total population in Highland County decreased slightly since the 2010 Census, according to the U.S. 2020 Census.
Highland County’s population in the 2010 Census was 43,589 while the total population in the 2020 Census was 43,317 – a decrease of 124 residents.
The national numbers, released last week, show the U.S. population grew at the lowest rate since the nation’s founding, adding 392,665 people (0.1 percent) during the past year.
The U.S. Census Bureau attributes the slow rate of growth to decreased net international migration, decreased fertility, and increased mortality due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with Highland County, the city of Hillsboro has seen a drop in population. In the 2010 Census, Hillsboro had a population of 6,605, and in the 2020 Census the population was 6,481 – a decrease of 124 people that matches the county’s decrease.
“I’m glad to see it wasn’t a huge decrease, but at the same time we are working to make Hillsboro a more attractive place to live work and play,” said Hillsboro Safety Service Director Brianne Abbott. “We were somewhat surprised, and moving forward one of our main goals is to provide more and better housing for current and future city residents and also improve our park system and increase economic development to hopefully draw more people to our city.”
As the U.S. has experienced a slowing population growth for years, the trend has been furthered by COVID-19. This past year was the first time since 1937 that the nation’s population grew by less than one million people.
“I was expecting low growth, but nothing this low,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s metropolitan policy program, Brookings Metro. “It tells us that this pandemic has had a huge impact on us in all kinds of ways, and now demography.”
Once there’s a handle on the pandemic, the U.S. may eventually see a decrease in deaths, but population growth likely won’t bounce back to what it has been in years past because of fewer births. That will increase the need for immigration by younger workers whose taxes can support programs such as Social Security, Frey said.
“We have an aging population and that means fewer women in child-bearing ages,” Frey said. “We see younger people putting off having children and they’re going to have fewer children.”
The decision not to have children by young families may be driven by financial worries as much, if not more, than health concerns, said Linda Kahn, a professor at New York University and lead researcher in a study that showed that almost half of New York City mothers who had been trying to become pregnant before the pandemic began in March 2020 stopped in the first few months of the outbreak.
“COVID really was a stress test of our whole system and how it fails to support women and families,” Kahn said. “Women were much harder hit in the pandemic. They lost their jobs at greater rates and had to give up their jobs, often to do home-schooling. The pressures on women were enormous and there’s really no safety net in the U.S.”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Quick Facts provide various pieces of information. The percentage of females in Highland County is 54.5 percent, slightly higher than the national percentage of 50.8 percent.
The Quick Facts also provides information on population by age. Those under 5 years of age in Hillsboro make up 6 percent of the population, those under 18 in Hillsboro make up 22.5 percent, and those 65 years and over in Hillsboro make up 23.3 percent.
From 2015-19 there were 3,306 veterans in Highland County.
Of the total Highland County population, 13.9 percent under the age of 65 had a disability (U.S. 8.6 percent) and 9.8 percent of people under 65 did not have health insurance (U.S. 10.2 percent).
The median household income in 2015-19 was $44,169 (U.S. $62,843) and 14.9 percent (U.S. 11.4 percent) lived in poverty.
When information was collected in 2019, there were 19,333 housing units, of which 68.4 percent were owner occupied. The median value of those owner-occupied housing units was $117,400. The median gross rent from 2015-19 in the county was $681 per month.
Of the total population in Highland County, 85.1 percent of the people over the age of 25 were high school graduates or higher while 13.4 percent held a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Countrywide, for the first time, international migration surpassed natural increases that come from births outnumbering deaths. There was a net increase of nearly 245,000 residents from international migration, but only about 148,000 from new births outnumbering deaths.
International migration dropped by about half from the previous year because of COVID-19 restrictions, such as borders being closed for nonessential travel and the closure of many consulates abroad where visas are issued. As recently as 2016, the U.S. had a net increase of more than 1 million international migrants.
In more than two dozen states, most notably Florida, deaths outnumbered births. Deaths exceeded births in Florida by more than 45,000 people, but the state’s saving grace was a migration gain of more than 259,000 people, the nation’s highest.
University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson described the decline in the United States’ natural population increase as “stunning,” saying it was the smallest spread of births over deaths in more than 80 years.
“Of course, most of this is COVID, but not all of it,” Johnson said. “U.S. natural increase was already at a low ebb prior to COVID with the fertility rate hitting a new record low each year and deaths steadily rising due to the population aging.”
Between 2020 and 2021, 33 states saw population increases, primarily through domestic migration, while 17 states and the District of Columbia lost population.
States in the Mountain West saw the biggest year-over-year growth rate, with Idaho growing by almost 3 percent, and Utah and Montana each seeing population increases of 1.7 percent. The District of Columbia lost 2.9 percent of its population, while New York and Illinois lost 1.6 percent and 0.9 percent of their populations, respectively. In pure numbers, California had the greatest net population loss of any state from people leaving: almost 353,000.
While the pandemic gave some people the option of working remotely, data released last month by the Census Bureau shows there was no great migration in the U.S. because of it.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.