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FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH Division of Public Health Statistics & Performance Management

Florida's Population

This section of the Florida Mortality Atlas provides a visual display of population trends in Florida over the past 33 years. Maps, graphs, and charts are used to depict Florida’s population growth from 1970 to 2003 by age, race, and gender. All files are provided in .pdf format for convenient printing.

Mortality risk is related to demographic variations within a population. Such variations include differences in racial composition, gender composition, and age. Nonwhites have higher mortality rates than Whites for most causes of death. Males have higher mortality rates for many causes of deaths than females, which is reflected by the fact that females, on average, tend to have a greater life expectancy than males. Certain age groups are at greater risk of developing or contracting certain illnesses than other age groups. For example, Florida residents ages 85 and older are more likely to succumb to complications of Alzheimer’s disease than residents ages 55 to 64. Both the very young and the elderly are at an increased risk of developing influenza or pneumonia. Awareness of the racial, gender, and age composition of a population may lead to a better understanding of mortality risks related to that population.

The sources of data for the Florida Mortality Atlas are the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Vital Statistics, the US Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, and the Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Trends in Population Growth

Florida is a large and diverse state with over 17 million residents and host to many elderly persons, immigrants, and national and international visitors. The state has experienced tremendous population growth in the last several decades. The population in Florida has increased by 134.6% from 1970 to 2000. The 1990s was the third consecutive decade in which Florida’s population grew by approximately 3 million residents. Florida currently ranks fourth among the fifty states in population and continues to be one of the most rapidly growing states in the nation.


Florida Population Changes, 1970 to 2003



Percent Change During the Previous 10 Years

Percent Change Due to Natural Increase

Percent Change Due to Net Migration



37.0% between 1960 - 1970





30.4% between 1970 - 1980





24.5% between 1980 - 1990





18.9% between 1990 - 2000





6.3%  between 2000 - 2003




Source: Florida CHARTS; Florida Legislature, Office of Economic & Demographic Research; Florida Office of Vital Statistics

The age distribution of Florida’s population has changed dramatically since 1970. In 1970, the state’s population was concentrated among age groups under 30 years of age. By 2000, the middle-aged and elderly populations had grown due to the aging  Baby Boomer generation and the migration of older adults into the state. Today Florida’s population distribution exhibits a greater percentage of elderly residents compared to the U.S. average. Persons over age 65 represent about 18% of Florida’s total population, making it the state with the largest proportion of elderly residents. Elderly residents comprise only 12.4% of the total U.S. population.

Whites, who represent about 82% of Florida’s population, are more likely to survive to older ages than Nonwhites. This pattern is more evident among Florida residents than among the general U.S. populace. Whites in Florida comprise a higher percentage of the population in older age groups than do Whites in the U.S. population as a whole. Nonwhites in the overall U.S. population are likelier to survive to old age when compared to Nonwhites in the state of Florida.  Around 1980, life expectancy in Florida surpassed the U.S. average. White females, by far, have the longest life expectancy of any group in Florida and are the only race-sex group that has a life expectancy at birth of over 80 years.

Population growth depends on two components--natural increase (the difference between the number of births and deaths) and net migration (the difference between the the number of people moving in -- in-migrants -- and the number of people moving out -- out-migrants). If natural increase is positive, then there are more births than deaths; conversely, natural decrease occurs when there are more deaths than births. Positive net migration occurs when there are more in-migrants than out-migrants. Net migration is negative when more people out-migrate than in-migrate. Population increased in all counties in Florida over the past 30 years, but primary reasons for the increase -- natural increase or net  migration -- varied from county to county.

In most states, the amount of natural increase largely determines population growth. Florida is an exception; 87.2% of the population growth in the state is due to net migration. Fifty-nine of Florida’s sixty-seven counties experienced a population increase from 1970 to 2000 that can be largely attributed to net migration. Gadsden County is the only county in Florida in which natural increase was more than double the net migration. Also Gadsden County experienced greater out-migration than in-migration.

The population density in the state of Florida has more than doubled since 1970. In 1970, Florida had a population density of 120.6 persons per square mile. By 2000, the state’s population density had increased to 282.9 persons per square mile. Many of the state’s most densely populated areas are located in the southern and central regions and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. These highly dense areas tend to be counties that experience higher shares of Florida’s net migration.

Definitions and Data Interpretation Notes


The Florida Mortality Atlas distinguishes residents as being either White (including White Hispanics) or Nonwhite (all other race and ethnic groups, including Blacks). Blacks comprise about 87% of the Nonwhite group.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is a measure often used to gauge the overall health of a population. As a summary measure of mortality, life expectancy represents the average number of years of life at birth that could be expected if current death rates were to remain constant. Shifts in life expectancy are often used to describe trends in mortality. Life expectancy at birth is strongly influenced by infant and child mortality. Improvements in nutrition, housing, hygiene, medical care, and prevention and control of infectious diseases contribute to decreases in death rates throughout the lifespan and the consequent increases in average life expectancy.


Many of the maps in the Florida Mortality Atlas are colored using a quartile method. In this method, data (age-adjusted death rates) are calculated and then ranked from lowest to highest for all 67 counties. Next, the counties are divided into four groups. Each of the four groups is assigned a number from 1 to 4. The counties with the smallest quantities of the events being ranked are assigned to the first quartile (1) and are shaded with the lightest color, while the counties with the highest-quantities of the event are assigned to the fourth quartile (4) and are shaded with the darkest color. Because quartiles are calculated using data from all 67 counties, the color-coded map provides a relative ranking among counties.

Three maps in the Population section of the Florida Mortality Atlas did not use the quartile method. These maps are Percent of Population Change by Primary Reason, Percent of Population Change Due to Natural Increase, and Percent of Population Change Due to Net Migration. Instead, counties were manually assigned to groups to emphasize those that are outliers.

Components of Growth

There are four components of population growth: births, deaths, in-migration and out-migration. Births and in-migration increase the size of a population, whereas deaths and out-migration cause decreases. The overall growth (or decline) of the population is thus determined by the number of births, deaths, in-migrants, and out-migrants.

--Natural Increase

The natural increase (or decrease) of a population is a result of the difference between births (fertility) and deaths (mortality). The number of births and deaths, along with fertility and mortality rates, vary from place to place. In some areas of Florida, deaths actually outnumber births, mainly due to the high numbers of elderly people settling, and subsequently dying, in those areas. Between 1990 and 2000, natural increase in Florida accounted for about 14 percent of Florida's total population growth. The Office of Vital Statistics maintains the official records of births and deaths in Florida.

--Net Migration

Net migration is not a process of population change, but the outcome of two migration processes (in-migration and out-migration). In this Atlas, in-migrant is defined as anyone moving into a county and out-migrant is defined as anyone moving out of a county. Most of Florida's growth between 1990 and 2000 can be attributed to net migration, which accounted for about 86 percent of the population growth during that decade. This stands in sharp contrast to the experience in many states, where net migration is small or even negative.

Since data on births and deaths are many times more reliable (and are more likely to be available) than data on in-migration and out-migration, the effects of the two migration processes on the growth of a population are often estimated. In this Atlas, net migration is estimated using population estimates for two different years and birth and death data for the period between those two years, as detailed in the following formula:

This formula provides an estimate of net migration in Florida, though it does mask trends in in-migration and out-migration.

Population density

Population density is expressed in residents per square mile, which can be obtained simply by dividing the number of residents by the land area of the county measured in square miles.