United Van Lines

Data compiled by national moving company United Van Lines shows Louisiana was among the top 10 states for outgoing migration in 2021.

What does Louisiana have in common with New York, California, Illinois and Massachusetts?

They were the top five states that led the country in losing population in the year that ended July 1. Louisiana ranked fifth on that undesirable list, behind four states with much larger overall populations.

The Census Bureau estimates that Louisiana’s population shrank by more than 27,000, as deaths rose and births dwindled due to the coronavirus pandemic and tens of thousands more residents left the state than moved in. The decline marks the fourth time in five years the state has lost residents, and is the most significant one-year decline since nearly 275,000 people were forced out by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Louisiana is the only Southern state in the top 15 states for losses. The Census Bureau reported that the South was the most populous of the four regions, encompassing 38.3% of the total national population, and was the only region that attracted more new residents than it lost to other areas.

Do you want to bet the continuous population loss doesn’t even come up when legislators gather next month to redraw their districts and those of their friends in Congress, on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Public Service Commission? Legislators are calling themselves into session to adjust political boundaries due to population shifts within the state. But if these conditions of the South growing and Louisiana losing population continue, they’ll cost the state another Congressional seat after the 2030 Census.

Louisiana could go from six members in the U.S. House of Representatives down to five if we don’t reverse the out-migration trend. There used to be eight members representing Louisiana. But who cares? It only affects federal funding formulas and the number of Electoral College votes to pick presidents.

Lake Charles, Lafayette areas had high outmigration patterns in 2021, data shows

Term-limited John Bel Edwards, the lame-duck governor, is only worried about gerrymandering a second Black Congressional District. Edwards owes that to the Legislative Black Caucus for supporting him in both elections and in the Legislature.

Just look at how the current Black district was drawn to guarantee one seat. It runs from East New Orleans across the Mississippi River to West Jefferson and hops back and forth across the river up to Baton Rouge. To guarantee a district will elect a Black member to Congress, the percentage of Black people in that district must exceed 60%.

As more predominantly Black precincts are pulled into a district, the adjacent district becomes more heavily White, a process sometimes referred to as “bleaching.” This practice polarizes the political views of candidates in both Black and White districts. The eventual winners won’t stray far from their promises out of fear of removal in two years by candidates more loyal to the base, which is why there’s so much gridlock in Congress.

Instead of growing jobs and attracting workers, Edwards and the Legislature will play racial politics. Sad. Like the Democrats in Congress, Edwards has to hurry and pay back his political friends before time runs out.

Another window into migration data is United Van Lines’ National Movers Study. It indicates Americans were moving to lower-density areas throughout last year and wanted to be closer to their families. The annual study tracks the company’s exclusive data for customers' state-to-state migration patterns.

Vermont had the highest percentage of inbound migration with United Van Lines. Topping the outbound list was New Jersey. Louisiana had the eighth highest percentage of people moving out, and more than 50% said it was for a new job. There’s that word again: JOBS.

You are probably not surprised that Louisiana is high up on another lousy list since the state has consistently lost population. But this decrease is more than three times the loss in any recent year. Meanwhile, U-Haul’s 2021 migration study of its customers lists Texas, Florida, and Tennessee as the top three states where people are moving.

Yet Edwards and legislators won’t acknowledge or address the state’s outmigration problems. Maybe they have just accepted being losers?

Garey Forster is former chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives and a former Louisiana Secretary of Labor. His column runs weekly. Email him at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.