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Population trends.

The U.S. Census Bureau just released new population estimates for the state of Montana and each of its 56 counties. In 2005, Montana's population was estimated at about 935,700, up from 902,195 reported in the 2000 Census. From 2000 to 2005, then, Montana's population grew at an average rate of 0.7 percent per year.

All by themselves, population statistics can appear dull--even to us number nerds. Only when we start to compare them with other time periods or different parts of the country do significant patterns begin to emerge. We begin by comparing Montana's current population growth to that of 10 years ago, in the first half of the 1990s. Then we will turn to Montana's counties and examine growth patterns within the state.

As shown in Table 1, overall population growth between 2000 and 2005 was much less than that reported from 1990 to 1995. During the first half of the 1990s, Montana's population increased by 68,700. But from 2000 to 2005, the state's count increased by just 33,500 people. It takes only a quick glance at the remainder of Table 1 to identify the causes of the slower population growth. The primary reason: There was greater net in-migration in the 1990s than there is today. Net in-migration totaled about 50,300 during the 1990-1995 time period. Between 2000 and 2005, net in-migration was only 19,800.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

There are many factors affecting mobility and migration, and it would be incorrect to attribute the decrease in net in-migration to a single cause. But it does appear that the nationwide recession and Sept. 11 aftermath did not lead to hoards of people moving to Montana seeking stability and safety. Similarly, the decrease in net in-migration does put into perspective the often-heard (as least in parts of western Montana) lament of being overwhelmed by Californians.

Births and deaths, the oft-neglected components of population change, show interesting trends between 1990-95 and 2000-2005. First, there is an unexplainable increase in births from 48,900 in the 1990s to 58,000 today. Nationwide, there was a slight up-tick during the same period, but nowhere near the 19 percent increase experienced here in Montana. The rise in deaths, however, is much easier to explain. It reflects the inevitable effects (alas) of the aging of the postwar baby crop.

Table 2 identifies the fast-growing counties today and those of the 1990s. It takes only a quick glance to see that most of the fast-growing counties now were also growing 10 years ago. Three of the top four counties (Gallatin, Flathead, and Jefferson) are the same on both lists, and seven of the top 10 (plus Ravalli, Sanders, Lake, and Madison) are repeats. In all cases, however, the population growth rates in 2000-05 were much less than in 1990-95.

We should remember that the Census Bureau calls these population estimates, and they are just that--estimates. They are no more accurate than the underlying methodology. One problem with the Census Bureau's method is that it may underestimate the population for counties undergoing significant short-run growth. Therefore, we suspect that the 2005 estimates for Richland, Silver Bow, and other counties in the midst of the commodities/energy boom may be understated. The full extent of the economic boom in these areas will likely be reflected in the estimates for later years.

Paul Polzin is director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at The University of Montana-Missoula.
Table 1
Components of Population Change,
Montana, 1990-1995 and 2000-2005

 Population Net
Year Change Births Deaths In-Migration

1990-1995 68,700 48,900 30,500 50,300
2000-2005 33,500 58,000 44,300 19,800

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Table 2
Fastest-Growing Counties, Population
Montana, 1990-1995 and 2000-2005

 1990-1995 2000-2005

 Percent Percent
Rank County Change County Change

 1 Ravalli 29.1% Gallatin 15.3%
 2 Gallatin 17.4% Flathead 11.7%
 3 Flathead 17.3% Golden Valley 11.2%
 4 Jefferson 17.0% Jefferson 11.2%
 5 Broadwater 16.7% Ravalli 10.7%
 6 Sanders 16.1% Sanders 8.1%
 7 Lake 16.0% Lake 6.8%
 8 Stillwater 13.9% Madison 6.2%
 9 Madison 12.2% Yellowstone 5.7%
10 Carbon 11.2% Lewis & Clark 4.9%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Table 3
Montana Components of Population Change: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2005

 April 1, 2000
 April 1, 2000 to June 30, 2005
 Census Births [+]

Montana 902,195 58,001

Beaverhead County 9,202 462
Big Horn County 12,671 1,366
Blaine County 7,009 568
Broadwater County 4,385 188
Carbon County 9,552 417
Carter County 1,360 35
Cascade County 80,357 5,636
Chouteau County 5,970 225
Custer County 11,696 693
Daniels County 2,017 78
Dawson County 9,059 454
Deer Lodge County 9,417 414
Fallon County 2,837 134
Fergus County 11,893 577
Flathead County 74,471 5,066
Gallatin County 67,831 4,835
Garfield County 1,279 75
Glacier County 13,247 1,356
Golden Valley County 1,042 59
Granite County 2,830 119
Hill County 16,673 1,314
Jefferson County 10,049 473
Judith Basin County 2,329 89
Lake County 26,507 1,926
Lewis and Clark County 55,716 3,427
Liberty County 2,158 90
Lincoln County 18,837 956
McCone County 1,977 70
Madison County 6,851 275
Meagher County 1,932 119
Mineral County 3,884 221
Missoula County 95,802 5,916
Musselshell County 4,497 263
Park County 15,694 833
Petroleum County 493 25
Phillips County 4,601 226
Pondera County 6,424 383
Powder River County 1,858 67
Powell County 7,180 298
Prairie County 1,199 53
Ravalli County 36,070 2,220
Richland County 9,667 444
Roosevelt County 10,620 1,013
Rosebud County 9,383 844
Sanders County 10,227 541
Sheridan County 4,105 107
Silver Bow County 34,606 1,990
Stillwater County 8,195 480
Sweet Grass County 3,609 192
Teton County 6,445 352
Toole County 5,267 253
Treasure County 861 22
Valley County 7,675 445
Wheatland County 2,259 113
Wibaux County 1,068 34
Yellowstone County 129,352 9,170

 April 1, 2000 April 1, 2000
 to June 30, 2005 to June 30, 2005
 Deaths [-] Net Migration [+]

Montana 44,327 19,801

Beaverhead County 455 -436
Big Horn County 535 -353
Blaine County 380 -568
Broadwater County 235 179
Carbon County 467 400
Carter County 84 9
Cascade County 4,070 -2,354
Chouteau County 334 -398
Custer County 731 -391
Daniels County 177 -82
Dawson County 555 -270
Deer Lodge County 679 -204
Fallon County 146 -108
Fergus County 854 -65
Flathead County 3,798 7,433
Gallatin County 2,012 7,556
Garfield County 78 -77
Glacier County 640 -411
Golden Valley County 36 94
Granite County 144 160
Hill County 766 -917
Jefferson County 431 1,079
Judith Basin County 115 -105
Lake County 1,400 1,264
Lewis and Clark County 2,442 1,748
Liberty County 121 -124
Lincoln County 1,028 428
McCone County 88 -154
Madison County 393 541
Meagher County 131 79
Mineral County 228 137
Missoula County 3,539 1,907
Musselshell County 316 53
Park County 761 202
Petroleum County 16 -32
Phillips County 291 -357
Pondera County 402 -318
Powder River County 115 -105
Powell County 392 -87
Prairie County 115 -32
Ravalli County 1,866 3,516
Richland County 548 -467
Roosevelt County 690 -419
Rosebud County 391 -624
Sanders County 626 915
Sheridan County 294 -394
Silver Bow County 2,204 -1,410
Stillwater County 357 175
Sweet Grass County 192 63
Teton County 369 -188
Toole County 292 -197
Treasure County 35 -159
Valley County 522 -455
Wheatland County 161 -174
Wibaux County 93 -58
Yellowstone County 6,187 4,356

 July 1, 2005
 [=] Estimate

Montana 935,670

Beaverhead County 8,773
Big Horn County 13,149
Blaine County 6,629
Broadwater County 4,517
Carbon County 9,902
Carter County 1,320
Cascade County 79,569
Chouteau County 5,463
Custer County 11,267
Daniels County 1,836
Dawson County 8,688
Deer Lodge County 8,948
Fallon County 2,717
Fergus County 11,551
Flathead County 83,172
Gallatin County 78,210
Garfield County 1,199
Glacier County 13,552
Golden Valley County 1,159
Granite County 2,965
Hill County 16,304
Jefferson County 11,170
Judith Basin County 2,198
Lake County 28,297
Lewis and Clark County 58,449
Liberty County 2,003
Lincoln County 19,193
McCone County 1,805
Madison County 7,274
Meagher County 1,999
Mineral County 4,014
Missoula County 100,086
Musselshell County 4,497
Park County 15,968
Petroleum County 470
Phillips County 4,179
Pondera County 6,087
Powder River County 1,705
Powell County 6,999
Prairie County 1,105
Ravalli County 39,940
Richland County 9,096
Roosevelt County 10,524
Rosebud County 9,212
Sanders County 11,057
Sheridan County 3,524
Silver Bow County 32,982
Stillwater County 8,493
Sweet Grass County 3,672
Teton County 6,240
Toole County 5,031
Treasure County 689
Valley County 7,143
Wheatland County 2,037
Wibaux County 951
Yellowstone County 136,691

Source: Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, www.census.gov.
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Article Details
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Author:Polzin, Paul E.
Publication:Montana Business Quarterly
Geographic Code:1U8MT
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Words:1564
Previous Article:Off to the right start a look at infant and parent trends.
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