Florida overtakes New York as third most populous U.S. state

Tue Dec 23, 2014 6:07pm EST
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By Letitia Stein

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida has leapfrogged New York to rank as the third most populous U.S. state, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday, reflecting demographic trends that are reshaping American politics and culture, along with state bragging rights.

With 19.9 million residents, Florida surpassed New York by a slim margin to rank behind two other warm-weather states: California, population 38.8 million; and Texas, 27 million.

New York, while still growing, dropped to fourth with 19.7 million residents, the July 2014 tally found, continuing the state's longtime slide from the top of the national rankings.

"What it reflects is a very important milestone and shows really a long-term trend, both in Florida and in other Southern and Western states," said Stanley Smith, a demographer with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

The 10 fastest-growing states last year were in the South or the West, the Census found, with the exception of North Dakota, which led the nation with 2.2 percent population growth, the result of an oil production boom.

States losing headcount in the annual survey were Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont.

Overall, the U.S. population grew by 2.4 million people to total nearly 319 million, the Census Bureau reported.

The population realignment has become highly visible in U.S. politics, with Florida playing an outsized role as the largest swing state, particularly critical to the Republicans' path to the White House.   Continued...

Beachgoers use Pensacola Beach, Florida after a storm June 4, 2010.  REUTERS/Colin Hackley