COVID-19 pandemic fueled 2021 population drop in 73% of US counties

Decrease attributed to fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality. Los Angeles County in California marked the biggest loss

 A man wearing a face-mask walks past The National Covid Memorial Wall, on national day of reflection to mark the two year anniversary of the UK going into national lockdown, in London (photo credit: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA)
A man wearing a face-mask walks past The National Covid Memorial Wall, on national day of reflection to mark the two year anniversary of the UK going into national lockdown, in London
(photo credit: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA)

The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic was reflected in a natural decrease last year in the population of nearly three-quarters of US counties versus the two previous years, the census bureau said on Thursday.

The coronavirus effect 

More than 73% of US counties experienced a natural decrease, or an excess of deaths over births, up from 55.5% in 2020 and 45.5% in 2019, bureau data showed.

"In 2021, fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic - contributed to a rise in natural decrease," the US Census Bureau said in a statement.

The biggest loss, of 159,621 residents, was in Los Angeles County in California, according to the data released by the bureau, as part of its Vintage 2021 estimates of population and components of change.

All counties in Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island experienced a natural decrease in 2021, it added, while migration also led to a decline in population for some.

 Pandemic pews: An empty church during COVID-19 (credit: MAX PIXEL) Pandemic pews: An empty church during COVID-19 (credit: MAX PIXEL)

2021 — A negative record year

The fall continues a trend in which more than half of all US counties lost population over the decade from 2010, with almost all growth taking place in metropolitan areas, census officials said last August. Read full story

Between 2020 and 2021, the population increased in about 65% of metropolitan areas within the 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

The US population grew at a slower pace in 2021 than any other year on record as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the more subdued growth of recent years, the bureau has said.