Forecast: Conn. to Experience Big Population Shift, Slower Growth

By | May 17, 2007

With lagging birth rates and an influx of immigrants, the face of Connecticut is expected to change greatly over the next two decades.

A new population analysis, released by the Connecticut State Data Center at the University of Connecticut, projects Connecticut will grow older and less white. At the same time, the state’s population is expected to increase at a slow rate or possibly even shrink. And in time, Connecticut could fall from its lofty spot as one of the wealthiest states in the nation.

“We have a massive generational shift going on. What’s happening here is happening nationwide,” said data center manager Orlando Rodriguez. “But it’s much more extreme because our fertility rates are so low.”

From 2005 to 2030, Connecticut is expected to grow by 207,472 residents, reaching a population of 3.7 million. The predicted annual growth rate of 0.27 percent is fewer than three new residents for every 1,000 existing ones. The national annual growth rate is 0.85 percent.

The report marks the first time in 12 years that state officials have been presented with statewide and town-by-town population projections. The center, which is the state’s official liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau, examined past census data and estimates, state statistics on deaths and births, federal immigration information and Internal Revenue Service data.

Rodriguez stressed the report is a forecast based on history. He said it does not account for economic or policy changes that could occur in the state.

It comes nearly five months after annual U.S. Census data revealed how the gap between New England’s slow-growing population and the nation’s growth rate had widened. New England’s growth has long trailed the nation’s as the population shifts to the Southwest and other regions where there are lower costs of living, warmer climates and more jobs.

Connecticut’s white population, currently 77 percent of the total state population, could drop to 61 percent by 2030, according to the data center’s analysis.

“If not for foreign-born immigration to Connecticut, which reached a 17-year high in 2005, the state would likely see its population begin to shrink, a scenario which would seriously erode Connecticut’s work force and would place Connecticut at greater risk of losing seats in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Rodriguez said.

In fact, Connecticut has already lost one of its six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives because of populations shifts in the 2000 U.S. Census.

A birth rate of 2.1 children per woman in Connecticut is needed to maintain the state’s current population. Currently, the birth rate in the state is 1.8 children per woman.

Despite the influx of foreign-born immigrants, it appears they may not give Connecticut a population boost because they have the lowest birth rate of all racial groups, Rodriguez said.

Additionally, the state could lose its grip on its top median personal income ranking. With the working age population decreasing, there will be a heavier reliance on minority workers, who traditionally have less education than the white workers they are replacing, Rodriguez said.

He said state policymakers should take note of the trend. The report has been presented to the governor’s budget office.

“We have to increase the educational attainment of minorities and we have to bring in jobs to keep these people once they have high levels of education,” he said. “There’s no sense in educating these young people if they leave.”

Rodriguez said it appears there will be a shift in the concentration of kindergarten through 12th-grade students toward the state’s cities because minorities have higher birth rates. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s rural areas are expected to become older.

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On the Net: www.ctsdc.uconn.edu/

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