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Southwest Florida Population Shifting

Posted by Benjamin Dona on Friday, August 8th, 2008 at 1:37pm.

While growth has slowed somewhat for parts of the region, the numbers released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2007 shows the areas population is not only still growing, but also diversifying in both age and race. In fact, Lee County, which includes Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Estero and Ft. Myers, had the fastest growth rate in the state.

Lee County saw a decrease in its population's median age from 45.2 in 2000 to 42.4 in 2007. Residents between the age of 25 and 34 grew almost 65% during the period while residents age 65 and older fell to only 22% of the overall population. Minority residents also grew substantially over the last seven years, with the largest increases coming from the Hispanic and Asian populations (141% & 114%).

Collier County, including Naples, saw its median age increase to 44 in 2007 from 43.5 in 2006, but was still below the 44.1 of 2000. Collier was also one of nine counties in Florida that made the nationwide top 25 list of counties with the most residents age 65 and older (25.2% of its population, ranked 23rd). Its minority residents also grew, but at a slower pace than Lee's. The Hispanic and Asian populations again led the way in Collier county with growth rates of 63% and 100% respectively.

Census Bureau demographer Greg Harper said "the slowdown in Southwest Florida's growth rate is on par with the rest of the state." The report showed that the growth in overall population for the state has slowed dramatically in the last two years. In 2005, 270,000 people moved into Florida. The number dropped to 170,000 in 2006 and to only 35,300 in 2007. However, you have to take the year over year numbers with a grain of salt. They are just estimates and thus are subject to a range of error. Like everywhere else in the country, the economy is playing a major role in this slowdown in growth. And, most pundits think this will be a short term scenario. With 76 million baby boomers on the verge of retiring in the very near future, how many do you think will look to Florida with a gleam in their eye?

The Census Bureau estimates that if just 5% choose to spend their golden years here, the population would increase by 3.8 million new residents in short order. The Census Bureau data also estimates that Florida should rank third in terms of population by 2010 and boast 28.6 million residents by 2030. Considering these forecasted numbers, the outlook for increased population growth looks as sunny as can be for the Sunshine state.

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