UF Study: Florida Goes Country As Population Breaks 15 Million Mark
GAINESVILLE — Florida’s population broke 15 million in 1998 as the state went country with people moving away from traditionally high-growth metropolitan areas, a new University of Florida study finds.
Heavily populated areas are nearing their saturation point, causing growth to spill over into counties away from major urban cores, said June Nogle, a demographer at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. For instance, rapid growth that characterized Orange County in the 70s has shifted to Osceola county in the 90s, she said.
“Counties in the past that haven’t been at the top of everyone’s mind when they think of major Florida destinations are the ones experiencing the strongest growth rates,” Nogle said. “We’re going to see lesser-known places like Osceola and Wakulla counties really come into their own.
Between 1990 and 1998, Sumter County recorded the sharpest population percentage increase (51.7), followed by Flagler (51.4) Wakulla (39.6), Liberty (38.4), Collier (38.1), Osceola (38), Walton (38), Gilchrist (35.9), Santa Rosa (32.1) and Union (31.3).
Adding to strong migration from other counties is the population boost from new prisons in Gilchrist, Liberty and Sumter counties, Nogle said.
“The bulk of Liberty’s migration comes from Calhoun, Leon and other neighboring counties, which is a general pattern across the state,” she said. “Counties get their most migrants from right next door. People move across county lines for cheaper taxes or more available land. Just as when we look at states, Georgia is often one of the biggest states to send migrants to Florida.”
Being on the Atlantic coast and sandwiched between the Jacksonville and Daytona Beach metro areas, Flagler county is in a good location for growth, as is Wakulla, being on the Gulf of Mexico and near the Tallahassee metro area, she said.
Pinellas County expanded at the slowest rate (4.8 percent), adding only 40,519 people to its 1990 population of 851,659, Nogle said. “They’ve reached build-out in many respects in Pinellas,” she said. “The other large counties — Broward, Palm Beach, Dade, Orange and even Hillsborough — have shown twice that growth.”
In sheer numbers, Broward, Palm Beach and Dade had the most new residents. “Dade, being the largest county to start with, attracts a lot of people,” Nogle said. “With smaller counties, they may grow at a faster speed because a few more people can make a big difference, but they continue to be relatively small. It’s like if you had a penny and doubled it. You just grew by 100 percent, but you still have only 2 cents.”
Statewide, the population increased nearly twice as fast as the nation did in the 90s but at only half the rate Florida did in the explosive 70s, Nogle said. “We’re still going to see strong growth compared to the national average but definitely slower than what we’ve seen in the past,” she said.
Last year the state’s population reached 15 million, growing 15.9 percent since the 1990 census of 12.9 million. While expansion is more rapid than the nation as a whole (8.3 percent), it is not nearly as strong as Florida’s growth rate in the 70s (43 percent) and 80s (32.7 percent), she said.
“The state was very different in 1970,” she said. “With only 6.7 million people, it was less than half the size it is today. There was a lot more undeveloped land and opportunities to grow close to major metropolitan areas.”
The vast majority of Florida’s growth is generated by out-of-state migration (82 percent) compared with new births (18 percent), Nogle said. In contrast, much of the growth of California and Texas, the first and second largest states respectively, is due to foreign immigration and young residents having children, she said.
By 2025, the U.S. Census Bureau projects Florida will surpass New York as the third largest state, with 20.7 million residents.
- Cathy Keen, email@example.com, (352) 392-0186
- June Nogle