Then & Now
1958 vs. 2023: The demographic, economic and political changes transforming the Sunshine State.
- Florida has moved from the 10th most populous state to third today behind California and Texas.
- The state’s population grew nearly 400%, from 4.5 million people to 22.3 million in 2022.
- Florida’s share of the nation’s population grew from 2.8% to 6.7%.
- Population density grew from 84.2 per square mile to 415. In 16 Florida counties, the density is more than 500 people per square mile. More than a quarter (28%) of the state’s population resides in Southeast Florida.
- The state’s economic output grew from $14 billion to $1.4 trillion.
Outpacing All Others
Florida, according to the U.S. Census, from 2021 to 2022 grew 1.9%, the fastest growth in the nation and the first time Florida’s led the nation since 1957, which was at the peak of the Baby Boom. For the nation’s third-largest state to also be its fastest growing is saying something. Idaho held the title the year before. One way to look at that — albeit unlikely to continue — growth rate: It means a doubling of Florida’s population in 37 years — or more than 44 million people by nearly 2060.
In 1958, as was true going back to the beginning of the century, privately owned cars outnumbered privately owned trucks in Florida. Cars led 1.78 million to 286,945. Trucks — a category that includes SUVs, vans and crossovers — dethroned the car in Florida in 2006 thanks to a variety of causes, including government regulations and incentives, lower fuel costs and consumer preferences. Today, trucks registered in Florida outnumber cars 9.79 million to 7.74 million. Trucks outnumber cars in all 50 states.
Floridians Living in Poverty
- 1958 — 16.4%
- 2020* — 13.1%
*The government’s poverty definition doesn’t include housing and food assistance or Medicaid benefits as income.
Politics Growing National Clout
- Florida’s population boom has boosted its clout on Capitol Hill, with the state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives growing from eight to 28 over the past six decades. In the 2024 presidential election, Florida will get 30 electoral votes, surpassing New York, which had 29 presidential electors before the 2020 Census count but dropped to 28 because of population declines.
- Party Shift: In 1958, Florida’s governor, both U.S. senators, the Florida Senate president and Florida House Speaker all were Democrats. In 2023, all are Republicans.
- Voter Registration: In 1958, Florida was home to 1.2 million Democrats, 216,000 Republicans and 12,000 voters registered with minor parties or no parties. In 2023, there are 5.3 million Republicans, 4.9 million Democrats and 4.3 million voters with no party affiliation or who belong to minor parties.
Presidential Voting History
Florida presidential election results (1960-2020)
- 1960: 5.5%
- Today: 21%
Some Perspective: The foreign-born population today is 4.6 million people. The entire state’s population in 1958 was 4.6 million.
Share of Miami-Dade Foreign-Born
- 1960: 12.1% (the largest percentage among counties in 1960)
- Today: 54%
Motherlands and Mother Tongues
The diversity of Florida’s foreign-born population has changed over time. In 1960, the United Kingdom accounted for 12.6% of the state’s foreign-born population — 92,430 people. Mexico and the rest of the Americas (not counting Canada) had just a bit more at 93,118, or around 12.7%. But Germany was nearly on a par with 12.5%, or 91,655.
Today, only 1.7% of Florida’s foreign-born population is from the U.K. Germany is down to 1.1%. Mexico and Latin America account for 75.6%.
Spanish was the language spoken at home for 15% of the foreign-born population in 1960. Nearly 11% of the foreign-born spoke German and 5.6% spoke Yiddish. English was the mother tongue of just over a quarter of the foreign-born population and Italian 8.4%.
Things changed. Spanish now is the language spoken at home for 74% of foreign-born Floridians. German is down to 1.4%. Yiddish is the default language for just 5,785 Floridians, though approximately 20,000 speak Hebrew.
- 1960 — 67.5%
- 2022 — 67.3%
- In 1960, the median home value in Florida was $11,800, which adjusted for inflation is $122,174 today.
- 1960: $71, which adjusted for inflation equals roughly $669 in 2022 dollars.
- 2023: $2,448 (average in the three largest metro markets)
- The share of the senior population increased from 11.2% in 1960 to 20.9% in 2021. Current share of population 17 and younger: 20.2%.
Youngest and Oldest Counties
- Five Florida counties with the highest share of youth 17 and under: Hendry, Hardee, Clay, Osceola and Baker counties.
- Five Florida counties with the highest share of population 65 and older: Sumter, Charlotte, Sarasota, Citrus and Highlands counties.
- 1959: 11.3 million visitors
- 2022: 137.6 million
- 1960: 7
- 2023: 15
- The sea level measured at the Key West gauge has risen approximately 6.5 inches since the magazine’s founding in 1958.
Average Household Size
- 1950: 3.22
- 2022: 2.47
The average household size has declined steadily since 1950, falling to 2.46 in 1990 before leveling off. The top and bottom Florida counties for average household size tell a story of age, ethnicity, net worth and rural vs. urban.
Future Population Projections
- 2030: 23.6 million to 25.6 million
- 2035: 24.1 million to 27.2 million
The University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research projects whites (both non-Hispanic and Hispanic) will remain the majority in Florida through 2050, although the share of non-Hispanic whites will drop below 50% by 2030 and fall to 47% by 2045. Florida’s non-Hispanic Black population — now around 16.5% — is projected to increase to 17% in 2030 and to 17.4% in 2045.
- Florida’s school-age children — ages 5-17 — are projected to increase 10% to 3.5 million in 2030 and increase 14.6% to 3.7 million in 2035.
- The number of people in their 80s or older is projected to increase 41% to 1.7 million in 2030 and 66% to 2 million in 2035.
In 1958, the average lifespan of a company in Standard & Poor’s 500 was 61 years. Today, it’s fewer than 18 years. Here’s a glimpse of some iconic Florida brands that vanished over the decades.
- Headquartered in Miami, Eastern Airlines was one of the “big four” airlines that dominated air travel for half a century until it shut down in 1991 after 62 years of service. Pan Am, which started in 1927 in Key West, folded later that same year.
- Founded in 1877, and once Florida’s largest bank, Barnett was sold in 1997 to what is now Bank of America.
- Once known as “The Florida Store,” Burdines was absorbed into Macy’s, in 2003 and its name disappeared two years later.
- Legendary founder Jack Eckerd came to Florida in 1952 and bought three run-down drugstores for $150,000. His drugstore chain had more than 2,600 stores in 20 states at its height. In 1996, JCPenney acquired Eckerd and later sold the stores to CVS and Canada’s Jean Couto Group for $4.525 billion.
Kash n’ Karry
- In 2000, Kash n’ Karry, a Floridabased grocery chain with roots in Plant City, was absorbed into Delhaize Group’s Sweetbay Supermarket chain. The last Kash n’ Karry story was converted to Sweetbay in 2007.
- Once America’s leading video rental chain, the Texas company moved its headquarters to Fort Lauderdale after Wayne Huizenga bought it in 1987. It went bankrupt in 2010, and by 2014 the last of the company-owned stores were shuttered. — By Amy Keller
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