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Working Papers

Forecasting 2020 U.S. County and MSA Populations

Working paper #549
Peter Linneman and Albert Saiz

Population growth at the county level can be predicted using widely available demographic and economic data. Past recent growth, the presence of immigrants, the fraction of population older than 25 and younger than 65, low taxes, and good weather are all positively associated with population growth. Our forecasts reveal that most growth and real estate development will occur in the West, Sunbelt, and along the Southern I-85 route. However, our model only accounts for 75 percent of the variance in growth experiences between 1980 and 2000, with the other 25 percent explained by “surprise” events. Many unexpected places will be winners or losers in the game of future local real estate development. A companion spreadsheet of our population predictions at the county level (metropolitan counties) can be found following the last page of the working paper.

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