By 2030, the Missouri population was expected to have grown by about 21 percent over the 2000 population, forecasters said early this century.
But growth stagnated, and about 20 years into the 21st century, the state's population has grown by only 2 percent.
The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center released a report early this century that projected the residents of the state to number 6.8 million by 2030. That would have represented tremendous growth from the 2000 population of 5.99 million. And it would have meant a growing workforce and consumer base for businesses.
However, the growth has not happened.
"Missouri's rank among the nation's most populous states has been on the decline since the turn of the (20th) century, when Missouri ranked as the fifth in the nation," the assessment stated. "Missouri's standing fell two positions during the decade of the 1990s, dropping from the 15th spot in 1990 to 17th by 2000."
The data reflect changing times in the state, as its declining population ranking reflects its falls in job creation — whether in manufacturing, construction, medical fields, social services or others.
The Great Recession, a period of economic decline that in the United States lasted from about December 2007 to June 2009 and affected other countries for several more years, affected migration a great deal in Missouri, according to Matt Foulkes, an associate professor in the University of Missouri's Department of Geography.
"It really curtailed our net migrations to the state," Foulkes said.
State demographers may have anticipated a great deal of immigration to the state before the recession, he said.
Oftentimes, immigration offsets "natural decrease" in population (more deaths than births) because immigrants have higher — what are sometimes called — "total fertility rates," Foulkes said. "Total fertility rates" is a way of measuring how many children women have.
"Migration is a driving factor in the population change of states," he said. "That goes for all states."
Missouri's population grew by 17,840 between 2016 and 2017. During that period, international migrants accounted for 8,077 new residents (about 45 percent of the growth).
A concern for the state is its urban areas — Kansas City and St. Louis — aren't growing, Foulkes said.
"St. Louis is losing people," he said. "You could argue that as the state goes, those cities go."
Or vice versa.
There is a give-and-take between communities. Although people may be moving back and forth between Missouri and Kansas, Iowa and Illinois, the Show Me State has a net gain from them, although small. An argument could be made Missouri isn't doing so bad regionally, he said.
"Where we're losing people to is Florida and Texas — those really big, growing states," Foulkes said. "We're also losing people to the Mountain West."
Is Missouri's tax structure hurting it? Some market-based economists assume the personal income tax may be affecting the state. After all, Florida and Texas are states where there is no personal income tax. But data doesn't support the hypothesis.
Census data show people of high and low tax bases both migrate for the same reasons — for jobs, families and, recently, for amenities.
"If a lawmaker were to call me and ask if lowering the Missouri income tax would help, I'd say 'maybe.' But I don't think it would move the needle that much," Foulkes said.
What moves the needle is jobs.
Florida created 11,500 new non-farm jobs in June. Texas created 45,000. Missouri created 1,465. Iowa created 5,600. Kansas added 100.
Jobs are created in places where resources are available. One of those resources is an educated workforce. Despite Cole County containing a number of colleges and universities that offer them, only 31.4 percent of county residents have college degrees. The county remains below the national average (33.4 percent).
Cole County's population, which grew by 5,309 over the past 18 years, has increased (7 percent growth) somewhat faster than the state.
The gain came mostly in minority communities. Despite low increases, the county's white population dropped from 87 percent of its population in 2000 to 83.7 percent in 2019.
Black residents make up 12.4 percent of Jefferson City's population, increasing from 9.9 percent in 2000. Hispanic residents have increased from 1.3 percent to 2.9 percent of the city's population.
Amenities — particularly natural amenities — may be another reason for people to move to a community, Foulkes said. The coastal states may be creating a lot of jobs, but millennials and the generation following millennials' lifestyles demand they live in places with natural resources, such as mountains.
"We're losing people to the Mountain West," Foulkes said. "For high-skilled migrants, it's easier to live remotely and work from home now. There are a lot of jobs where people can telecommute."
Places like the Mountain West have good problems associated with influxes of large numbers of people — meeting their transportation needs and creating infrastructure for them.
Missouri is losing more college graduates than it's attracting, many of whom are college graduates looking to live in places where they can telecommute.
If the graduates stay, the state may be able to build "clumps of high-skilled workers." Those are the places where people with companies will wish to locate.
"That creates an 'upward cycle,'" Foulkes said.
"Census data is very clear — most people don't move," he added.
"Residential mobility is going down," he continued. "That is something that is concerning economists. Economists believe that regional inequalities help economics (people may move to a state because it is cheap)."
For states like Missouri, a stagnant or declining population, combined with an aging population, leaves fewer people bringing in revenue.
"But most people stay," Foulkes said, "kind of, in their area."