ALBANY — New York, whose status as the most populous state has long been ceded, will soon fall behind Florida into fourth place, a long-anticipated drop that is rife with symbolism and that could carry potentially serious economic consequences in coming years.
When the Census Bureau releases its latest population estimates Monday, demographers expect that Florida and New York will be narrowly separated — perhaps by as little as a few thousand people — and that if Florida does not pass New York this time, it almost certainly will do so in 2014.
The census figures underscore immigration trends, as foreign-born migrants continue to move to warm-weather states such as California and Texas — No. 1 and 2, respectively — as well as to Florida. The newcomers also include winter-weary New Yorkers who move or retire to Florida at a rate of more than 50,000 a year, twice the number of Floridians who head to New York.
But the shift also highlights the struggles in upstate New York, which has lost large-scale manufacturing jobs and large chunks of population, offsetting consistent gains in New York City. But the city’s growth has seemingly not been robust enough to stave off hubs in Florida like Jacksonville, Miami-Dade County and Tampa.
“It’s going to happen,” said Andrew A. Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College and an expert on the census, on New York falling into fourth place. “And if Florida accidentally grew faster and New York slowed down, it could have happened already.”
Beyond a blow to New Yorkers’ collective ego, the changing population pattern could have many practical and political implications, including diminished congressional delegations, a setback New York already suffered in 2010 — the year of the last decennial census count — when the state lost two districts, while Florida gained two seats. Census data also inform how billions of dollars in federal funding and grants are divvied up among the states, for things like highway planning and construction, public aid for housing and health care and education programs.
All of which has Florida feeling good.
“Every number we see, if we don’t pass them this year, we’re going to pass them in the next few months,” Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said in an interview last week. “Florida’s on a roll.”