Most Alabama Counties Grew in 2022, Reversing Trend
People are moving to Alabama, and according to most recent population estimates, the growth is more widespread than it has been. Out of 67 counties, 36 saw population growth between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, the period covered in the latest Census Bureau release. In the prior year, only 29 counties saw positive growth. Throughout the 2010s, only 24 counties grew.
Fig. 1. Numeric Change 2021-2022
The growth is particularly noteworthy because four factors were putting downward pressure on population growth:
Death rates were still elevated in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic
The large Baby Boom generation is entering years of increased mortality
Smaller succeeding generations have lower birthrates
International immigration is still lower than historical norms
But in the counties that grew, and for the state as a whole, domestic migration — a net positive number of U.S. residents moving into the state — overcame the headwinds.
Fig. 2 Domestic Migration 2021-2022
The strongest growth was among the usual suspects: Baldwin County in the south and Madison and Limestone counties in the north, with Lee, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa counties also continuing positive growth trends. The Huntsville area’s growth continues to spread across North Alabama, with population growth accelerating in The Shoals (Lauderdale and Colbert), Cullman, Morgan, and Marshall counties.
The Wiregrass and Northeast Alabama counties also grew, including Calhoun County, which had been on an extended population losing streak. Calhoun added over 600 new residents through domestic migration for a net population gain of 111. Etowah County attracted 524 new residents, but since deaths exceeded births, the population total declined slightly, down just 55 residents.
In percentage terms, Limestone County grew the fastest. That’s likely growth not only in Athens, the county seat, but also from Huntsville and Madison, which have spread from Madison County into Limestone. Generally, counties along the Interstate corridors are growing, as well as counties bordering Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. On the western border with Mississippi, most counties are losing population.
Alabama’s traditional urban centers — Jefferson, Montgomery, and Mobile — lost population, primarily due to domestic outmigration.
That population loss parallels national trends among urban counties: in the wake of the pandemic, most population centers lost population. According to the estimates, Jefferson County’s population decreased 4,588 in 2022. Since the 2020 Census, Jefferson County’s population has decreased by almost 9,000.
Rate of Domestic Migration, 2021-2022
There are signs of a turnaround, though. Nationally, large urban centers began seeing population recovery in 2022. Jefferson County’s population loss was lower in 2022 than in 2021. International immigration and natural increase helped fuel population growth in urban centers elsewhere, including among Southern neighbors. Alabama’s big cities saw some population growth through international immigration. However, Alabama generally sees much lower rates of international in-migration.
Rate of International Migration, 2021-2022
Divergent Rates of Change
Alabama’s Black Belt and other more remote rural counties continued to lose population through residents moving away and through higher death rates. According to the estimates, Lowndes, Perry, and Greene Counties are each now below 10,000 in population, with Greene being the least populous at 7,422. Bullock, Coosa, and Wilcox are close to 10,000. Nationally, about 1,000 of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. have 10,000 or fewer residents.
Population Estimates, 2022, U.S. Census Bureau
In addition to outmigration, rural counties tend to have negative rates of natural change: in other words, more deaths than births. Those counties tend to have a higher median age, with a higher share of the population over 60. That’s a population that has an increased risk of death from natural causes.
Rate of Death, 2021-2021
On the opposite end of the spectrum are counties with a higher proportion of the population who are young adults or in their child-bearing years. In only eight counties have births outnumbered deaths since 2020: Lee, Shelby, Madison, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Limestone, Marshall, and Autauga.
Alabama’s population change is occurring in the context of national trends that are visible when zoomed out to the national level. Population losses in Alabama’s Black Belt are connected to patterns along the Mississippi River from Mississippi and Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and even Illinois. Baldwin County’s growth rate has echoes along the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina coasts. Huntsville’s growth sits at the edge of the mountain interior southern region stretching across Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Northern and Central Georgia.
Who Cares About Childcare? PARCA Annual Forum, 2023
Gov. Kay Ivey identified affordable and high-quality child care as a key priority in her speech to the Public Affairs Research Council’s Annual Forum, held Friday, March 10, at the Harbert Center in Birmingham.
“Many Alabamians and others across the country face a dilemma in finding safe, reliable childcare,” Ivey told the crowd of close to 400, “As more and more Alabamians join the workforce, which is a very positive development for our state and quality of life, more working families will also be in need of childcare services. There is no better time than right now to address this fundamental need facing this state.”
Friday’s Forum featured researchers, parents, childcare providers, and employers discussing the state’s challenges in fostering an adequate supply of affordable, convenient, and high-quality care for young children and their working parents.
Below you can find the program for the event, which includes biographies of the featured speakers.
Speakers included Alison Hooper, an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Alabama’s College of Education, whose research has mapped childcare availability and access across the state, and Cynthia Osborne, the executive director of the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center and professor of Early Childhood Education and Policy at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
Osborne’s center has developed a 50-state comparison of key policies that relate to childcare, plus statistical comparisons of child well-being and policy options for delivering additional support to children and families. That includes a summary of findings for each state, including Alabama.
The Forum also included a panel facilitated by Janina Nobles, Child Development Instructor and Program Advisor at Bevill State Community College. The panel included a collection of parents, a childcare provider, and an employer to provide a range of perspectives on the issues happening in childcare.
Alabama’s Population Growth Driven by Changing Factors
Alabama’s population grew faster in 2022 than in any year in more than a decade, with changing factors producing the growth, according to estimates generated by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The data, released in December, covers the period between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022. The Census Bureau estimates that Alabama grew by 24,450 or 0.5% over the period. That growth rate ranks No. 20 nationally and is ahead of Mississippi and Louisiana but behind Southeastern neighbors like Tennessee and the southern states on the East Coast.
From 2010-2017, Alabama grew slowly, with natural change (births minus deaths) and international migration (migrants arriving from another country) providing slow but positive growth.
Since then, factors have flipped. With the arrival of Covid-19, the number of deaths jumped. Natural change has gone negative, with more people dying than being born. While mortality from Covid will decline, the death rate is expected to remain elevated as the large population cohort known as the Baby Boom ages and moves into years of increased mortality.
Meanwhile, with changes to immigration policy during the Trump administration and with restrictions imposed during the pandemic, international immigration contracted. However, for Alabama, the contraction in international migration was offset by a surge in domestic migration: more people moving to Alabama from other U.S. states.
Rates of Change
As part of its data release, the Census Bureau calculates rates of change for the basic factors of population change. The rates are calculated by estimating the change and then adjusting for population.
Alabama ranks 16th in domestic migration in 2022, but 48th in international immigration.
Alabama’s birth rate was slightly above the U.S. average in 2022, but claims the 5th highest death rate among U.S. states
Alabama is growing, though not as fast as some of its Southeastern neighbors. Alabama’s high death rate indicates that underlying health challenges and disparities in healthcare access likely contributed to a higher mortality rate. Domestic immigration shows strength, indicating that the state is attracting new residents from other states. However, international immigration rates are lower in Alabama.
Estimates for counties, cities, and metro areas will be released later this year. Those estimates will provide further insight into where people are moving within the state and how other factors affect population change.
Demographic Change in Alabama, its Counties, and Cities, 2010-2020
Alabama’s population became more diverse over the past decade as the number of non-Hispanic Whites declined and more Alabamians identified as being of a different race, a mixture of races, or of Hispanic descent. In 2010, 67% of Alabama’s population identified as non-Hispanic White; By 2020, that percentage was down to 63%. That’s according to 2020 Census data released earlier this year.
The 2020 Census marked the first decennial census in history that either Alabama or the U.S. recorded a decline in the White population. Demographers expected a decline due to falling birth rates and the aging of the population, including the unusually large and predominately White Baby Boom population. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian populations all increased. But the biggest change was in the number of people identifying as More than One Race, indicating an erosion in traditional ethnic and racial distinctions.
The Census Bureau cautions that some portion of the decline in the “Non-Hispanic White alone” population is likely due to changes in how people responded to new wording on the race question. The Census Bureau changed the wording and presentation of the race question on the 2020 Census. In 2020, for the first time, the “White” choice was followed by example countries of origin in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Similarly, the Black or African American option listed African and Caribbean nations as example origins. All respondents were asked to elaborate on their origins in a text box below their selection. This change from 2010 appears to have led more individuals to reclassify themselves as not being “White alone” but instead as being of more than one race or origin. Regardless, the Bureau believes the new totals present a more accurate picture of an increasingly diverse nation.
Nationally, the non-Hispanic “White alone” population decreased by 5 million or 2.6% from 2010 to 2020.
In Alabama, that population declined by 33,000, from 3.20 million to 3.17 million. Meanwhile, the number of people identifying as non-Hispanic and of more than one race far exceeded the increase in any other category, 124,173, compared to the 78,445 increase in the Hispanic population, the second fastest growing group. The number of non-Hispanic residents who reported themselves as White in combination with another race rose by 118,249, a 222% increase, from 53,260 to 171,509, from 1.2% of the population to 3.6%. The number of respondents who reported themselves as Black in Combination with another race also rose sharply, up 130% in Alabama, the third highest growth rate in the country in that category, a numerical increase of 38,767 over 2010.
Hispanics now make up 5.3% of the Alabama population, while non-Hispanic Blacks make up 25.6%. Non-Hispanic individuals of more than one race make up 3.7% of the population, now the fourth largest demographic group.
Both in Alabama and across the country, non-Hispanic whites remain by far the largest racial group representing 58% of the population nationally and 63% of the population in Alabama. Alabama’s non-Hispanic white population percentage ranks No. 30 among the states. The state with the highest share of its population identifying as non-Hispanic White was Maine at 90%, followed by West Virginia (89%), Vermont (89%), and New Hampshire (87%).
Hawaii has the lowest percentage of non-Hispanic whites, 22%, followed by California (35%), New Mexico (40%), and Texas (40%). Among its Southeastern neighbors, Georgia’s population in 2020 was 50% non-Hispanic white, while Florida’s was 52%. In all states besides Hawaii, non-Hispanic whites decreased as a percentage of the total state population.
Hispanic or Latino growth rate slows
Unlike the changes to the Census question on race, the question of whether or not the individual is of Hispanic or Latino origin has been consistent for several administrations of the Census. The official definition of “Hispanic or Latino” is a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
The number of Alabama residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino continued to grow between 2010 and 2020, but at a more modest pace than in previous decades. Alabama’s Hispanic population increased from 78,445 to 264,047, an increase of 42% over the course of the decade. In 2010, Hispanic or Latino individuals made up 3.9% of the Alabama population; by 2020, 5.3%.
The chart below presents decennial Census results from the U.S. Census Bureau supplemented with Census counts from the 2000 and 1990 Census analyzed by the Alabama State Data Center at the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
Even without immigration, the Hispanic and Latino population will likely continue to grow more rapidly than the non-Hispanic White population because Hispanics are younger and more likely to be of child-bearing age.
The median age of non-Hispanic Whites in Alabama is 43. The median age among Hispanics is 25. Over 8% of the Alabama population under 18 is Hispanic compared to less than 2% of the population 55 and above.
Also, Hispanic mothers have a higher total fertility rate than other demographic groups. The Total Fertility Rate is the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes. Reducing that rate to an average per female, Hispanic females average 1.9 children over a lifetime, Blacks, 1.7; for Whites, 1.5.
Demographers calculate the replacement level, the rate of births it would take to replace any given generation, to be 2.1 children per female. Generally, since the 1970s and consistently since 2008, the U.S. birth rate has been below replacement level, meaning that, absent immigration, the population will eventually decrease because not enough children are being born to replace the previous generation.
Hispanic and Latino individuals are widely dispersed across the state, appearing in every county. Much of the Hispanic population growth likely came from natural increase, state residents giving birth, rather than new immigration. For Alabama, the Census Bureau estimated that 57% of all population growth came from natural increase, 32% from international immigration, and 11% from domestic migration.
Hispanic Population in Alabama Counties
In Alabama, the counties with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents are in North Alabama, in a band stretching from Franklin County in the west to DeKalb County in the east. Those counties where the Hispanic population is most concentrated are also centers for the poultry industry, which was an initial draw for Hispanics settling in Alabama. Secondary concentrations are evident in Tuscaloosa and Pickens counties and in Southeast Alabama’s Wiregrass region. Those are also coincidental with poultry industry concentrations. Higher percentages of Hispanics can also be found in counties like Shelby, Madison, Baldwin, Lee, and Limestone, where residential and commercial construction jobs are plentiful.
But in terms of numbers, the most Hispanic and Latino residents are found in Alabama’s more populated metro counties. Jefferson County’s Hispanic population is now nearly 35,000, while neighboring Shelby is home to over 16,000. Madison County is second in the state with almost 25,000 Hispanic and Latino residents, complemented by strong Hispanic populations in neighboring Marshall (15,658) and Morgan (12,377) counties. Madison added more Hispanic residents than any other Alabama county over the previous decade.
Hispanic Population in Alabama Places
Parallel geographic concentrations of Hispanic individuals can be seen in the population of Alabama cities, towns, and places. Alabama now has two municipalities where a majority of the population is Hispanic: Allgood in Blount County and Collinsville in Dekalb, according to the 2020 Census.
Among cities with a population of 20,000 or more, Albertville (population 22,386) has the highest Hispanic percentage of population, with the 7,545 Hispanics living there constituting 34% of the city’s population.
In terms of numbers of Hispanic inhabitants, the larger populations are found in the state’s big cities. Huntsville has more Hispanic residents, 16,669, than any other Alabama city, followed by Montgomery, Birmingham, and Decatur, each with over 9,000 Hispanic residents.
Near Birmingham, Hispanic communities along the Interstate 65 corridor in Hoover, Pelham, and Alabaster total over 10,000. Out of 597 Alabama cities, towns, and places, 450 saw either flat or increases in the Hispanic population. Among Alabama cities above 20,000 in population, only two, Hoover and Homewood, saw a decline in their Hispanic populations over the decade. Homewood was down by 417, Hoover by 211.
Black and White: Enduring Patterns and Subtle Changes
While the Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial populations are of interest because of their rate of change, the enduring story of Alabama is the population patterns of Black and White, a story stretching back to statehood.
The general pattern remains in Alabama: 11 counties are majority black, the south central Alabama counties of the Black Belt, named for their rich soil, counties that historically had the highest concentration of cotton plantation agriculture and enslaved persons. Those black majorities persisted after emancipation and continue today.
Greene County has the highest percentage of non-Hispanic Black population, over 80%. The most populous majority black county is Montgomery County, with over 229,000 residents, 55% of whom are Black.
Meanwhile, Winston County, in rural northwest Alabama, has the highest percentage of Non-Hispanic White residents at 92%, with Cleburne (91%), Cherokee (90%), Cullman (89%), and Marion (89%) not far behind.
In 11 counties, the Non-Hispanic White population increased. Baldwin County saw the largest increase over the decade, with a gain of 34,000, followed by Madison, Lee, and Limestone. However, those counties all diversified as well. Blacks, Hispanics, and other groups also grew in numbers.
The counties with the most significant decline in the number of residents identifying as Non-Hispanic White were Mobile (-17,201), Jefferson (-15,961), and Montgomery (-14,745). Remember that some of that “decline” in the count may be attributed to individuals reclassifying themselves. However, those population changes in the white population correspond with overall population counts and flows that show continuing movement to suburbs located in adjacent counties.
In each of the central metro counties, the percentage of the population identifying as non-Hispanic White has declined as a share of the population as the Black, Hispanic, and other racial and multiracial subgroups increase. Non-Hispanic Whites represented 52% of Jefferson County’s population in 2010; by 2020, that percentage was 48%. Blacks make up 42% of the Jefferson County population in 2020, roughly the same percentage as in 2010. The Hispanic population grew by over 9,000, increasing from 4% to 5% of the population. The group with the biggest increase in Jefferson County was non-Hispanic More than One Race, up 12,921, constituting 3% of the population.
In Montgomery County, 38.4% of the population was non-Hispanic White in 2010; In 2020, 32%. The Black majority in Montgomery County increased from 55% to 57%. Hispanics increased by 2,370, now representing 2% of Montgomery County’s population, up from 1% in 2010. Asians 3,160, now 4% of the population, while the non-Hispanic More than One Race category increased by 3,519 and in 2020 representing 3% of the population.
In Mobile County, the non-Hispanic White population percentage went from 59% in 2010 to 55% in 2020. The Black population increased by 3,163, or 35% of the county population. The Hispanic community increased by 3,489, raising its share of the population to 3.2%. Like Jefferson County, Mobile County’s biggest growth category was in the non-Hispanic More than one race category, which gained over 10,000, making it the second most populous minority group at 3.7% of the population.
Meanwhile, Madison County’s non-Hispanic White population increased by 16,000, but its Black population grew by 16,052, non-Hispanic More than One Race population grew by 13,027, and its Hispanic population increased by 9,532. Despite the growth in the non-Hispanic White population, its population percentage decreased from 66% of the population in 2010 to 61% in 2020.
Just as whites have sought out new housing opportunities in the suburbs, Blacks make up an increasing percentage of the population in Shelby and St. Clair Counties around Birmingham and are also an increasing percentage of the population in Autauga and Elmore counties outside of Montgomery.
Meanwhile, the Black population is also decreasing in Alabama’s Black Belt,
Race in Alabama Cities, Towns, and Places
When looking at cities, some subtle shifts can be seen in the data. Birmingham, which saw decades of White flight, saw an increase in the White population but not enough to offset significant outflows of Blacks. Meanwhile, Montgomery and Mobile, which had maintained more racial balance for longer than Birmingham, saw outflows of White residents and growth in other demographic groups.
In Huntsville, populations increased across all racial and ethnic groups, though that multifaceted growth also produces a diversified population.
Between 2010 and 2020, Birmingham saw a modest gain in its non-Hispanic White population, with an additional 1,000 residents identifying as non-Hispanic White. Meanwhile, Birmingham’s Black population declined by almost 20,000. The city added about 1,500 Hispanic residents, and the number of individuals identifying as non-Hispanic More than One Race was up 2,685. The city saw a net decline of 11,504. Because of the shift, Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites now represent a slightly higher percentage of Birmingham’s population. In contrast, the Black percentage of the population declined from 73% to 68%., with 23% White, 5% Hispanic, 2% More than one Race, and 2% Asian.
The situation was different in Montgomery. The City of Montgomery’s Black population grew by 4,348, but the White population declined by 17,000. The Hispanic population of Montgomery increased by 1,671. But the most growth came from an increase of 2,591 Asian residents and 3,022 in those reporting More Than One Race. In 2020, Montgomery’s population was 60% Black, up from 56% in 2010. Non-Hispanic Whites dropped from 36% of the population to 28%. Asians climbed to 4% of the population, just ahead of More than One Race at 3%.
In the City of Mobile, the White population declined by 10,570, the Black population declined by 2,697, and the Hispanic population increased by 1,434. An additional 3,410 people in Mobile identify as More than one Race compared to 2010. The Black population now represents 51% of Mobile’s population, up from 50% in 2010. The White population represents 40%, down from 44% in 2010. Hispanic and individuals of More than One Race each make up 3% of the population, while Asians represent 2%.
Meanwhile, in Huntsville, each of the four largest groups grew: Hispanics (+6,157) and non-Hispanic Whites (+14,100), Blacks (+6,745), and non-Hispanic More than One Race (+6,184). The non-Hispanic White population decreased in its share of the population from 58% to 55%. The Black population share decreased from 31% to 29%, but the Hispanic share increased from 6% to 8%. Individuals of More than One Race increased to 4.6% of the population, while the Asian share of the population increased slightly to 2.5%.
Growth in the Asian Population
Though the Asian population in Alabama is smaller in comparison to other demographic groups, there has been notable growth in some areas.
The small fishing town of Bayou La Batre in south Mobile County is the Alabama city with the highest percentage of Asians in the population. The Vietnamese community there, established by people fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam War, represents 20% of the city’s population. However, over the past decade, the number of Asian residents declined by 162.
Meanwhile, the Asian population has grown significantly in several communities and counties along the Interstate 85 corridor, home to Hyundai, Kia, and automotive suppliers with ties to South Korea. Auburn’s population is 10% Asian, after adding 4,580 Asian residents between 2010 and 2020. Montgomery’s Asian population increased 2,591, and neighboring Pike Road added 472 Asian residents.
The Asian population also increased in the Birmingham metro — Hoover (+1,793), Birmingham (+1,123), and Vestavia Hills ($897) — and in Huntsville (1,112) and Madison (+1,452).
Alabama and the nation continue to diversify due to birth, death, and migration trends. But the statistics from the 2020 Census show that the nation is also changing through marriage and evolving attitudes toward racial identity as customs and generations change. The chart below looks at the Alabama population by age, with the population color-coded first for race and then for ethnicity. Both charts note the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the younger population.
The shifting demographics challenge Alabama to continue progress toward common goals and increasing equality of opportunity for all.
How Alabama Compares in the Percentage of the Population Lacking Health Insurance
The percentage of Alabamians without health insurance rose between 2019 and 2020, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2020, 11.8% of the population under 65 was uninsured, compared to 11.6% in 2019.
Nationally, the uninsured rate declined from 10.8% to 10.4%. Alabama ranks 39th among the states in the percentage of its population with health insurance.
Comparison Among States
The latest estimates come from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE). The Bureau has built an interactive tool for exploring the data in depth at the national, state, and county levels.
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, Americans gained access to health care exchanges and subsidies, which increased the percentage of people with health insurance. The law also encouraged states to expand Medicaid eligibility in order to provide health insurance to more low-income individuals. To date, 12 states, including Alabama and several other Southeastern states, chose not to expand Medicaid. Those states tend to have higher percentages of their population uninsured.
Three Southeastern states did expand Medicaid eligibility. Those states have a smaller percentage of the population uninsured than Alabama: Kentucky, 6.9%; Louisiana, 9.6%; and Arkansas, 10.2%.
Health Insurance By County
Dekalb County has the highest percentage of the population without insurance, at 19%. Dekalb and other counties across North Alabama have a greater share of residents who are Hispanic compared to other parts of Alabama. Nationally, the health insurance rate is much lower among Hispanics than in other demographic groups. On the other end of the spectrum is Shelby County, which has the lowest percentage without insurance, 9.3%
Coverage For Children: A Bright Spot for Alabama
Alabama ranks in the top 20 when it comes to providing health insurance to children. Only 3.6% of individuals 18 and younger lack health insurance, largely thanks to the ALL Kids, Alabama’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program is administered by the Alabama Department of Public Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBSAL) to provide medical, mental health, and substance abuse services through their preferred provider organizations (PPO).
Alabama has policy options for decreasing the number of people who lack health insurance. Recent federal legislation has provided additional incentives to expand Medicaid. An analysis by PARCA and the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Jacksonville State University found that expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults in Alabama would actually save the state almost $400 million per year over the next six years. Much of that savings would come through having federally supported Medicaid coverage pay health care costs that are currently paid for by other state programs. Expansion can be handled by expanding coverage under the government program or a through insurance policies subsidized by Medicaid funding but offered by private companies.
Alabama Population Dynamics and Workforce
Absent immigration from other states or from abroad, Alabama’s working-age population is on track to shrink in coming years, according to a PARCA analysis of new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
(Not represented in the graphic are the more than 85,000 Alabamians the Census estimates included in the 85 and older category).
The 2021 Census population estimates by age provide a preview of the number of individuals that will join the workforce and the number that will likely be leaving it. Two factors are conspiring to create downward pressure on the working-age population:
Large numbers of aging Baby Boomers are likely leaving the workforce
The smaller rising generations, Gen Z and Gen A, will provide fewer replacements for those retiring workers.
In 2021, the Census estimates there were 65,730 64-year-olds in Alabama vs. 63,125 18-year-olds, a difference of about 2,600.
In every successive year thereafter, the number of Boomers exceeds the corresponding Generation Z cohort.
The gap widens significantly when today’s 11 and 12 years reach the age of 18. In 2008, with the advent of the Great Recession, birth rates fell. And they haven’t recovered.
Even when the Baby Boom has moved out of the prime working years, the number of potential leavers will outnumber new entrants, based on the current age structure of the Alabama population.
Considering only the current population, over the next 18 years, Alabama’s population between the ages of 18 and 64 will drop by a cumulative total of more than 50,000.
However, current residents only make up part of the story. Population growth is also influenced by migration and birth and death rates. Labor force supply is also affected by migration, by labor force participation, and indirectly by educational and skills attainment.
In terms of the natural population increase, Alabama has already seen two successive years in which deaths exceeded births. In 2021, about 8,500 more people died than were born, according to the estimates. This is due to the larger number of people moving into old age and the elevated death rates associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
In terms of migration, changing patterns are affecting population and labor supply. From 2010-2016, most of Alabama’s population growth came through international immigration, with the state annually adding about 10,000 new residents who had been born abroad.
Since 2018, international migration has dropped, but domestic migration has increased.
In recent years, Alabama has enjoyed a net positive inflow of residents from other states, about 20,000 new residents a year from that source.
With unemployment low and demand for workers high, Alabama may continue to attract new residents through migration. But at the same time, the state is trying to increase the quality and the quantity of Alabama’s homegrown labor force:
By improving the education and training of the rising generation so that they are equipped for 21st-century jobs
By bringing Alabamians who’ve fallen out of the workforce back in
An array of state initiatives are underway to improve student preparation:
the expansion of First Class Pre-K
the Alabama Literacy Act
the expansion of Advanced Placement classes, high school/college dual enrollment, and the expansion of career technical education.
On the labor force participation front, through the Success Plus Initiative, the Alabama Workforce Council, the Governor’s Office, and an array of state agencies and participating nonprofits are collaborating on strategies to bring more people into the workforce training and education systems. The initiative seeks to address barriers individuals face to participating in the workforce and training. Through cooperation and outreach, the partners hope to reach discouraged workers and provide them pathways to high-demand fields.
Alabama Public Opinion Survey 2022
With elections for governor and legislature pending in the fall, Alabamians are united in support for public investment in education and healthcare, divided on how to raise money for new investments, and express a preference for local leadership and decision-making. That is according to PARCA’s annual public opinion survey.
The poll of over 400 Alabama residents was conducted by Dr. Randolph Horn, Samford University, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Research and Professor of Political Science.
Results from this year’s survey are consistent with previous years’ results in some important ways.
Alabamians continue to rank education as the most important state government activity.
Large majorities of Alabamians say the state spends too little on education and healthcare.
Alabamians have an aversion to taxes but say upper-income residents pay too little.
A slim majority say budget surpluses should be reinvested in state services, specifically education, rather than used to cut taxes.
If budget surpluses are used to cut taxes, the most popular tax cut is the sales tax on groceries.
Alabamians are willing to pay more taxes to support education but do not agree on which taxes should be increased.
Alabamians are essentially split on tax-funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition. However, a majority believe vouchers, if allowed, should be available to all students.
Alabamians continue to believe that they have no say in state government and that government officials in Montgomery do not care about their opinions.
Results of the survey indicate many opportunities for officials to demonstrate responsiveness to public concerns and leadership in crafting public policy solutions.
Each year, PARCA analyzes population estimates issued by the U.S. Census Bureau. Visualizations of the population estimates and change for the state, counties, and metro areas can be found on our data dashboard. The estimates release covers cities and towns and their population changes between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021. For additional perspective, see coverage of the estimates by al.com.
During this period, international migration was effectively shut off. The influx of new residents from overseas had been a primary driver of population gain in the larger established cities. Meanwhile, this period also saw elevated mortality rates due to the pandemic. Also, due to the pandemic, cities across the nation saw an outflow of residents as businesses stayed shuttered and workers were asked to work from home.
Birmingham’s population dropped by 2,558, more than any other Alabama city. It was followed by Mobile, which was down 1,459, and Montgomery down 1,341. With an estimated population of 197,575 in 2021, Birmingham is now the state’s third-largest city, behind Montgomery at 198,665, and No. 1 Huntsville, at 216,963.
Huntsville bucked the trend of large city population loss, adding 1,920 residents according to the estimates. Only Auburn added more, 2,135, which was more population gain than any other Alabama city. Since 2010, Auburn’s population has increased 43%, the fastest rate of growth among cities over 20,000. Neighboring Opelika has also grown, adding an estimated 465 in 2021.
Both Auburn and Huntsville have been spreading out through annexation, adding undeveloped land where housing is now being built. At 218 square miles, Huntsville is now far larger than Birmingham at 147 square miles.
Add up the growth totals in Baldwin County, and you’ll see why the coastal county is No. 1 in numeric growth among Alabama counties. The estimates show Foley adding nearly 1,500 residents, Daphne more than 1,000, and Fairhope and Gulf Shores over 500 apiece.
The Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area is still far larger than the next largest metro, Huntsville, with around 500,000 residents compared to Birmingham-Hoover’s 1.1 million. Over the past two decades, population growth around Birmingham has occurred chiefly in its suburbs.
However, according to the 2021 estimates, some traditional growth engines were idling. Trussville only added 172 new residents, and Hoover saw a net decrease of 98 residents. Homewood, Mountain Brook, and Vestavia Hills saw population declines. A bright spot for Jefferson County was Gardendale which posted a gain of 407. The growth in the Birmingham MSA occurred farther out in Shelby and St. Clair County. Calera added 742 residents; Chelsea, 478; and Helena, 465. Pell City, Moody, and Margaret town in St. Clair County also added residents. Nearby, Tuscaloosa added 658 residents and broke over the 100,000 population mark, coming in at 100,618.
Across a region, the biggest population gains were in north Alabama. In addition to Huntsville’s growth, Athens, in Limestone County, added over 1,300, and the City of Madison almost 1,000. Nearby, The Shoals added 424 residents, with growth in both Florence and Muscle Shoals continuing a positive trend. Across the entire northern tier of the state, almost all the cities and towns showed growth.
Southeast Alabama around Dothan saw modest growth, with Enterprise leading the way by adding over 500 new residents.
Anniston and Gadsden, however, continued a flat to declining population trend.
More broadly, most cities and towns in rural Alabama, from Northwest Alabama, through the Black Belt, and East Central Alabama, lost population.
2021 Kids Count Data Book provides roadmap for helping Alabama children
Since 1994, the Alabama Kids Count Data Book has documented and tracked the health, education, safety, and economic security of children at the state and county levels.
This annual statistical portrait is meant to provide a roadmap for policymakers who seek to improve the lives of Alabama’s children. The Data Book can be used to raise the visibility of children’s issues, identify areas of need, identify trends and measure how previous efforts are working, set priorities in child well-being, and inform decision-making at the state and local levels.
Among the findings from this year’s data, VOICES points to the following challenges we must continue to address for Alabama’s children and families:
– Child Care: There are only 1,855 licensed child care providers in Alabama to support the workforce of today and tomorrow. Lack of quality child care is a leading reason for decreased workforce participation. Further, babies need quality care and education as their parents work and their brains develop in pivotal years.
– Health: During a youth mental health crisis and increased family stress, there is 1 mental health provider available for every 923 Alabamians. The latest research shows that unaddressed childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) lead to lifelong chronic health issues, along with significant barriers to educational achievement and financial security.
– Economic Security: While 16% of Alabamians live in poverty, 23.9% of Alabama children live in poverty (ex. a household of 4 making $24,750 or less). Further, 1 in 5 children in Alabama are food insecure.
– Education: Poverty leads to significant disparities in education. For Alabama 4th graders in poverty, only 37.9% are proficient in reading and 12.1% are proficient in math.
– Safety and Permanency: In 2021, 3,453 children entered foster care. While cases can have multiple causes of entry, 48% of cases involved parental substance abuse.
See how children in all 67 counties of our state are faring in education, health, economic security, and more.
Deaths outnumber births, but population grows through domestic migration
New estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than half of Alabama counties lost population between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, losses driven by an aging population, a declining birthrate, and an elevated death rate during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Statewide, the 65,868 deaths outnumbered 56,320 births, leading to a net loss through natural change of 8,548. In the visualization below, counties are shaded by their rate of natural change. Only eight counties, those in blue, saw more births than deaths. Alabama had the 4th highest death rate in the U.S., behind West Virginia, Mississippi, and Maine.
However, stronger growth through domestic migration (individuals moving from other states to Alabama, but excluding movers who are foreign-born) helped the state offset those losses. Estimates issued earlier this year put Alabama’s population at 5,039,877, up by about 15,000 or 0.3%, from 2020. A net total of 22,136 domestic migrants moved to Alabama, offsetting the loss from natural change.
Two counties accounted for about half that growth, with coastal Baldwin adding 6,780 net new residents through migration and Madison County adding 5,335. Madison County’s neighbor, Limestone, added 3,388. Other north Alabama counties like Cullman, Lauderdale, Jackson, Morgan, Marshall, and Dekalb also saw gains from domestic migration. The counties containing the three other large population centers — Jefferson, Mobile, and Montgomery — saw population declines, according to the estimates. Meanwhile, counties linked to those metro core counties — counties like Shelby and St. Clair, Elmore and Lee, and Baldwin — saw growth. Modest growth also occurred in some Wiregrass counties — Coffee, Houston, and Henry.
Zooming out to look at the Southeast, similar patterns are evident. Core counties in Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Memphis lost population while surrounding metro counties grew. Generally, growth was more widespread in Tennessee, Florida, the Carolinas, and the northern half of Georgia. Overall, Alabama counties bordering Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida are growing. Coastal counties on the Southeast’s East and Gulf coasts have seen growth. Counties along the interstates benefit throughout the region. Still, rural counties and whole swaths of the interior South, including counties in central and western Alabama, continue to lose population, not yet connected to the regional engines of growth.
When it comes to counties grouped into metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), The Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Huntsville, and Auburn-Opelika MSAs continue to show strong population growth. Among the 358 U.S. metros, they rank No. 16, 40, 50, respectively, in terms of percentage population change.
On the other hand, metro Birmingham is still not seeing the pace of growth of other Southeastern metros. Gains in Shelby, St. Clair, Bibb, and Blount counties weren’t enough to overcome Jefferson County’s estimated population loss of 5,521. Over the past decade, Jefferson County’s natural increase plus population gains from international immigration offset a steady stream of domestic outmigration. But in 2021, deaths outnumbered births by 438, and international migration accounted for a gain of only 153 people. Meanwhile, the estimates show a net loss of 5,238 domestic residents moving out of Jefferson. That produced a net population loss for the MSA in 2021. The Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan statistical area ranked 258 out of 358 U.S. metros in percentage change.
Montgomery ranked No. 248, with a slight population gain, and the Mobile MSA ranked No. 305, with a population loss of 1,326. After strong growth over the past decade, Tuscaloosa County and its metro area lost population in 2021, according to the estimate. Its growth rank ranked it No. 284 among U.S. metros.
The Auburn-Opelika MSA added 2,617 residents, according to the estimates, a growth rate of 1.5%. Dothan, Decatur, and the Florence-Muscle Shoals MSAs also showed positive growth. The Anniston and Gadsden MSAs continued to post slight declines.
Using the menus and tabs in the visualizations above, you can explore birth and death rates, numerical and percentage change of counties and MSAs in Alabama and across the U.S. The state population estimates and components of change released earlier this year are below.
And the final visualization looks back to the results of the 2020 Census and compares population counts from April 2020 and April 2010.