Jan. 9—Ohio gained about 26,238 new residents in 2023, which was the state’s first population increase in three years, according to new Census data.
But Ohio’s rate of population growth trailed a majority of U.S. states, and the Buckeye State is expected to lose hundreds of thousands of residents in the next two and a half decades, according to state projections.
However, population loss is not destiny, said Alison Goebel, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
“Things can change,” she said. “Local and state leaders can help bend the population curve.”
Ohio’s population increased by 26,238 people in 2023, or 0.2%, according to recent Census data. The state had about 11.78 million residents last year.
The state lost about 5,530 residents in 2022 (-0.05%) and 33,065 in 2021 (-0.3%).
Ohio’s population growth last year trailed 33 other U.S. states.
Ohio had seen steady but very slow population growth for years, until the COVID pandemic hit in 2020.
Population changes reflect births, deaths and net migration, said Robert Graham, senior research scholar and associate director of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University.
The death rate increased during the peak COVID years (2020-2022), Graham said, which would contribute to a rare two years of population losses.
Graham said he suspects that the number of people moving into Ohio has not changed substantially.
But he said increased housing costs and interest rates and general uncertainty may have caused fewer people to move out of state.
“In times of uncertainty, people may prefer more certain options,” he said.
For years, many people have decided to move from colder-climate areas to warmer locales, Graham said.
South Carolina, Florida and Texas saw the strongest population growth last year, and other fast-growing states included North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
Graham said it makes sense that Ohio would see modest growth because it has a relatively good economy and more moderate temperatures.
Fast growth can be exciting and presents lots of opportunities, he said, but unplanned fast growth strains existing resources, infrastructure and services.
Ohio’s population changes in recent years are within the margin of error of the Census estimates, but the numbers suggest a stable population, which is a good sign for Ohio as a whole, said Goebel, with the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
“We should be looking at the big picture,” she said. “In Ohio’s case, these estimated changes tell us that Ohio’s population is not exponentially growing or shrinking.”
Ohio has an aging population, Goebel said, and about three-fourths of people who live in Ohio were born in the Buckeye State, which shows it has not experienced a lot of domestic or international migration.
Population projections from the Ohio Department of Development estimate that 14 Ohio counties will see population growth between 2022 and 2050, while the remaining 74 counties will see declines.
Overall, the state is expected to lose nearly 6% of its population in that period, or about 675,500 residents.
Central Ohio is expected to see some of the most robust growth, while five counties in southwest Ohio are projected to see gains, including Warren County (+21%), Miami County (+7.4%) and Greene County (+1.9%).
Montgomery County is expected to lose 8.4% of its population, while Butler County could shed 1.4% of its residents.
Policymakers must recognize that population trends are not uniform across the state and they need to take steps to protect and shore up the health of Ohio’s different regions, Goebel said.
“Counties and regions that are not expected to experience long-term population growth should not be taking on any new long-term infrastructure costs in the form of new roads or new utilities,” she said. “We should not encumber future ratepayers with the costs of maintaining and repairing additional infrastructure.”