Tennessee topped the Hoosier State and is on Massachusetts heels according to 2020 census data revealing Tennessee to be the 16th largest state by population in the union.

The Tennessee State Data Center, housed in the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, analyzed the US Census Bureau data released last week. The ranking puts the Volunteer State up one spot since 2010. It trails number 15, Massachusetts, by 119,077 people and leads number 17, Indiana, by 125,312.

The new count of the state’s residents was released along with congressional apportionment results and shows that Tennessee retained its allocation of nine seats in the US House of Representatives. That figure has held since 1980.

The growth during the teens was at a slower pace than the previous decades. During the period from 1990 to 2000, the state increased by more than 812,000 people, a rise of 16.7 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, Tennessee added almost 657,000 people for an 11.5 percent increase.

The meteoric increase was similar to the county on average which saw a 7.4 percent increase since 2010—the lowest rate since the 1930s and the second lowest in history.

“Although our growth rate was slightly lower last decade, the 2020 population counts did exceed the pre-census estimate of an 8.3 percent increase,” said Tim Kuhn, director of the Tennessee State Data Center. “We have to wait to learn more, but we are very thankful to Tennesseans who completed the census and to the public and private leaders across the state who helped promote a complete count of our residents.”

Over the past 30 years, other studies have shown that much of the state’s population increase has been driven by net migration gains, meaning more people were coming in than going out. While it is still the case, a decline in birth rates that began in 2007 dampened Tennessee’s overall growth between 2010 and 2020.

The concentration of population growth in the Southern and Western parts of county is evident in the new data.

The southern United States grew by 10.2 percent in the past decade and gained more than 11.5 million people. Growth in Texas (15.9 percent) and Florida (14.6 percent) helped propel the increases over the past 10 years in this part of the country. West Virginia and Mississippi was the anomalies as they saw decreases in population.

Western states came in a close second to the Southern states, with an overall population increase of 9.2 percent. Utah’s 18.4 percent increase is the highest percentage gain among all US states. Midwestern and Northeast regions saw modest increases of 3.1 and 4.1 percent over the 10-year stretch, the study revealed.

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