Census shows slow Pa. population gains
When Lauren Glazin packed her bags a year ago to leave London for the United States, she knew what she wanted — and what she didn’t want.
“I strategically chose Pittsburgh because it’s the anti-London. There’s space. It’s cheap to live and park your car,” said Glazin, 25, of Shadyside. “I could have moved to New York or L.A., but I chose Pittsburgh. When you take the hype of a big city out of it, you get the essence of what it means to enjoy life.”
Recently released U.S. Census Bureau figures show America’s growth rate in 2013 fell to 0.71 percent. The nation added about 2.3 million people during a 12-month period that ended July 1. That marked the lowest growth rate since the Great Depression.
The Census Bureau estimated the national population on New Year’s Day at 317,297,938, about 0.7 percent higher than a year ago.
Pennsylvania remains the sixth-largest state, with an estimated 12.77 million residents — a 0.07 percent gain since 2012. The state ranked last among those showing positive gains. Maine and West Virginia were the only states that lost population.
North Dakota topped those with gains. Its population increased 3.14 percent, but the 723,000 residents are fewer than those living in Butler and Westmoreland counties combined, so the gain of 22,000 people made a considerably larger impact on its growth rate.
Texas added nearly 390,000 people, but its growth rate was 1.49 percent.
Pennsylvania added 9,326 people.
“We’ve been, for the past 30 or 40 years, a slow-growth state,” said Sue Copella, director of the Pennsylvania State Data Center.
The state experienced more international migration in recent years, but more in eastern areas than Western Pennsylvania, she said.
Detailed state information is expected this month, and information at the county level could be released in spring.
“There could be a different reason why we’re remaining steady,” Copella said, noting that factors that led to growth in 1990 might not be the same in 2014.
Like other demographic experts, Copella said growth almost always has to do with people migrating for jobs and economic reasons.
Yet figuring out what happens behind the numbers isn’t easy, said Chris Briem, a regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Pennsylvania isn’t one real economic or demographic area; it’s a lot of different regions,” he said. “Williamsport is a long way from here, and Allentown is even further.”
People follow jobs, he said.
“People are voting with their feet,” he said. “Jobs are either pulling or pushing people from Pittsburgh.”
Western Pennsylvania is entering its seventh consecutive year of positive migration. It isn’t enough to offset the disparity between deaths and births, but it is closing the gap.
“We’re the country’s only large metropolitan region that has this net population decline,” Briem said.
Some people might have stayed in Pennsylvania in recent years because the state, and particularly Western Pennsylvania, fared pretty well during the recession, said Herb Smith, a sociology professor and director of the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Smith doubts international migration makes a big impact here.
“New York City still gets a large percentage of international migration, but for places like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, those days are gone,” said Smith, noting the state’s dynamic immigrant boom happened a century ago.
Glazin, the former Londoner, is among the transplants bucking that trend. During college, she spent three summers working at the Jewish Community Center’s Emma Kaufmann Camp and got to know Pittsburgh.
After graduation, she spent two years in a finance banking sales job in London. Her daily commute took more than an hour, and expenses forced her to live with her parents.
This month, she became director of J’Burgh, a Hillel initiative designed to keep Jewish students in Pittsburgh. For the price of her monthly train pass in London, she can afford a one-bedroom apartment here.
“I’m making less money than in London, but it’s worth the price cut and more,” she said.
Her work visa expires in 2015, though Glazin believes she could get it extended. She intends to begin the years-long process to become a permanent resident.
“I could live anywhere easily, but I didn’t want to,” she said. “I wanted to live in America. It’s a different way of life.”
Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or [email protected].