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2020 Census Data: Tennessee Population Topping 6.9 Million

April 30, 2021

Tennessee’s resident population grew to 6,910,840 over the past decade, according to the 2020 Census results released Monday, April 26. The gain of 564,735 people equates to an 8.9 percent increase since 2010.

Bar graph showing Tennessee population growth from 1910 to 2020

 

The Tennessee State Data Center, housed in the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, analyzed the US Census Bureau data released this week. Tennessee ranked as the 16th most populous state in the nation, up one position from 2010. It trails number 15, Massachusetts, by 119,077 people and leads number 17, Indiana, by 125,312.

The new count of the state’s residents was released along with congressional apportionment results which, as expected, show that Tennessee retains its current allocation of nine seats in the US House of Representatives. That figure has held since 1980.

More Moderate Growth in the Past Decade

The state’s population increase over the past 10 years is smaller than gains seen in the previous two decades. During the period from 1990 to 2000, the state added more than 812,000 people, an increase of 16.7 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, Tennessee added almost 657,000 people for an 11.5 percent increase.

To some degree Tennessee’s population increase mirrored that of the country, which has slowed to a 7.4 percent increase since 2010 — the lowest rate since the 1930s and the second lowest in history.

“Although our growth rate was slightly lower last decade, the 2020 population counts did exceed the pre-census estimate of an 8.3 percent increase,” said Tim Kuhn, director of the Tennessee State Data Center. “We have to wait to learn more, but we are very thankful to Tennesseans who completed the census and to the public and private leaders across the state who helped promote a complete count of our residents.”

Over the past 30 years, other studies have shown that much of the state’s population increase has been driven by net migration gains—more people moving into the state than moving out. While that general trend continues, a decline in birth rates that began in 2007 dampened Tennessee’s overall growth between 2010 and 2020.

Table 1: Tennessee Resident Population, 1910-2020

Year

Population

Change

Percent Increase

1910

2,184,789

   

1920

2,337,885

153,096

7.0%

1930

2,616,556

278,671

11.9%

1940

2,915,841

299,285

11.4%

1950

3,291,718

375,877

12.9%

1960

3,567,089

275,371

8.4%

1970

3,923,687

356,598

10.0%

1980

4,591,120

667,433

17.0%

1990

4,877,185

286,065

6.2%

2000

5,689,283

812,098

16.7%

2010

6,346,105

656,822

11.5%

2020

6,910,840

526,595

8.9%

Southern and Western States Surge

The concentration of population growth in the Southern and Western parts of the country is evident in the new data.

The South — which includes Tennessee — grew by 10.2 percent in the past decade and gained more than 11.5 million people. Growth in Texas (15.9 percent) and Florida (14.6 percent) helped propel the increases over the past 10 years in this part of the country. Not all Southern states saw growth; West Virginia and Mississippi logged decreases.

Western states came in a close second to the Southern states, with an overall population increase of 9.2 percent. Utah’s 18.4 percent increase is the highest percentage gain among all US states. Midwestern and Northeast regions saw modest increases of 3.1 and 4.1 percent over the 10-year stretch.

State-by-state population percentage change chart from 2010 to 2020

Cities and Counties Await August Redistricting Release

States, counties, and cities eager to learn about their 2020 census population will have to wait until August 16 to learn their totals. That’s when the US Census Bureau’s Public Law 94-171 redistricting data is expected to become available.

The bureau’s current plan calls for data to be released to experienced data users by mid-August, followed by an October 1 release in more user-friendly formats and through Census Bureau websites.

The redistricting release will kick off the process of redrawing political districts at congressional, state, and local levels to rebalance population numbers among districts.

“The redistricting data are very important numbers for cities and counties across the state,” Kuhn said. “Rebalancing population among political districts is the most oblivious use. But these data are also used to access a community’s growth and look at housing vacancy rates, and they are incorporated into funding formulas. These uses are all dependent on the more detailed census data that will come later this summer.”

The August totals also will be used for future Tennessee state-shared revenue allocations.

CONTACT:

Tim Kuhn (865-974-6070, tkuhn@utk.edu)

Erin Hatfield (865-974-6086, ehatfie1@utk.edu)