Aha! You thought so. Now there’s proof. Migrants are moving into Tennessee right under our collective noses as easy as they please.
But as the data is calibrated, it might not add up to what you figured.
The Tennessee State Data Center housed on the UT Knoxville campus has done the numbers and released results last week. The center analyzed new U.S. Census Bureau data that shows for the third straight year Tennessee is the nation’s 16th-most-populous state.
Using the latest figures, the center estimates the population at 6,770,010 residents in 2018, an increase for the year of 61,216 people.
If all those new state residents settled in one place, that new city — let’s call it Volville — would be more than twice the size of Maryville. Volville would rank just under Johnson City and above Bartlett in the state’s city population rankings, settling in at No. 10.
Just for curiosity’s sake, using the Census’s estimated data for 2017: Maryville (population 28,208) ranks No. 27, between Oak Ridge and Bristol, with Alcoa (9,343) ranking No. 61, between Brownsville and Bloomingdale. For the record: Louisville (4,141) ranks No. 123; Greenback (992) is No. 275; Friendsville (849) is No. 294; Rockford (746) is No. 305 and Townsend (400) ranks No. 355.
In our mythical city of Volville, about one in five people would be native Tennesseans. That’s because the state’s 79,474 births outpaced its 67,259 recorded deaths, and the difference — called natural change — accounted for 20 percent of the total population increase last year. Births have hovered at around 80,000 annually since 2011, while deaths have increased by 1.6 percent each year over that same period.
That naturally slowing growth rate is no surprise to Tim Kuhn, director of the center. Overall, the rate of natural change has fallen by 5 percent every year since 2010. Kuhn notes that the steady rise in the state’s death rate over the past 20 years and the declining birth rate, especially among women under age of 25, likely will continue to edge the growth rate downward.
There’s a “but” of course. That slowdown has been offset by migration made up of people who are different from us Volunteer staters. They’re a different breed entirely, you might say. Gators and Bulldogs and Wildcats and more.
Or as the State Data Center explains, in prior years, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky have been the largest sources of new residents. In the past year, nearly two-thirds of Tennessee’s population increase was driven by residents moving from other states, including almost 40,000 people who moved in from surrounding states.
The migration news out of Washington is a relentless, day-after-day, rat-a-tat-tat drumbeat that has pounded the federal government into partial shutdown. Given that, it might come as a surprise to many people living between the Smokies and the Mississippi River that Volville’s population of 61,216 is composed of 8,994 residents who are international migrants, or about 15 percent of the total increase in the entire state’s population.
According to the State Data Center analysis, Tennessee’s population in the past year grew 0.96 percent. Put in perspective, international migrants account for 15 percent of less than 1 percent.
Maybe here in the highlands, when the mist clears off the mountains and we can look westward across the Volunteer State, we’ll be able to see that this migration myopia is more than meets the eye — or that it’s really far less.