The Tampa region – Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties – has added nearly 60,000 residents since the 2010 Census, a bump of about 2 percent. Much of that growth was led by transplants from other parts of the country.
New federal population estimates show that between 2011 and 2012, the bulk of those new residents appeared in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough gains both from transplants moving into the county from elsewhere and from a positive balance in the ratio of births and deaths – a figure population experts refer to as “natural increase.”
In 2011, Hillsborough showed strong growth in both. In 2012, the county’s natural increase numbers – the growth in “native” Floridians – offset what census officials reported as a sharp decline in migration from with the United States. Last year, the census said, 4,000 more people left Hillsborough County than move there.
The exact cause of that sudden outflow remains unclear. Census officials say the change reflects their count of tax filings and Medicare billings to estimate population changes.
Hillsborough was just one among Florida’s 67 counties to record this trend in 2012. Miami-Dade County, which remains a hub for people moving to the U.S. from abroad, shed more than 17,000 residents to other parts of the country that year.
Twenty other counties, all of them much smaller and more rural than Hillsborough and Miami-Dade, also lost population to out-migration.
Could those losses reflect a statewide decline, for economic and political reasons, of immigrant workers who are in the country illegally? It’s hard to say, said Carl Schmertmann, a demographer at Florida State University.
“Migrant workers might or might not be caught up in this,” Schmertmann said. “They would have to be filing taxes or enrolled in Medicare.”
Hillsborough also stood out from its neighbors by recording more births than deaths in 2011 and 2012.
Statewide, the ranks of native-born Floridians has wavered decade-by-decade since World War II. But the trend has been generally downward even as the state’s population has ballooned to more than 18 million thanks to millions of retirees.
Pasco and Pinellas have long been magnets for retired transplants, which translates into more deaths than births. That remained the case in 2011 and 2012 in those two counties and in nearly half of all the state’s counties.
Pinellas had 3,460 more deaths than births between 2011 and 2012, the state’s widest gap in natural increase. During the boom years of the last decade, Pasco came close to tipping its natural increase – more births than deaths – for the first time in decades. Young families at the time filled new subdivisions in Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel.
The housing crash put the brakes on that as people held off having children for economic reasons. As a result, Pasco’s birth-to-death ratio has returned to its earlier pattern, said Stefan Rayer, a University of Florida demographer.
People moving into Pasco and Pinellas helped offset the negative natural increase, so both counties report overall population growth overall between 2011 and 2012.