Lafayette metro area shrinking for second straight year, according to latest census estimates

Line chart increasing until arrow breaks
Illustration by Peter DeHart

The gist: The five-parish metro area is estimated to have plateaued or shrunk in the last two years, despite modest growth in Lafayette Parish, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since peaking at 490,941 residents in 2016, the metropolitan statistical area essentially flatlined. Annual estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2018 show a slight decrease in population to 489,364. Lafayette’s MSA includes Lafayette, Vermilion, Iberia, St. Mary and Acadia parishes. Businesses considering moving to Lafayette typically look at the regional workforce.

Meanwhile, Lafayette Parish added residents, growing 3% since 2014 to 242,782.  

The city of Lafayette shrank in 2017 estimates. Data that year showed continued growth in surrounding municipalities like Broussard and Youngsville, albeit slowing, and a slight dip in the city of Lafayette’s population, which shrank less than half a percentage point from the previous year. City-level data for 2018 has not been released.

Parish growth may be related to cannibalizing other areas in the region. When you factor in these other numbers, the data suggest that Lafayette Parish’s growth could be coming at the expense of surrounding areas. In other words, while areas like Youngsville and Broussard may be growing, a large part of that growth could be residents leaving areas harder struck by the recent economic downturn, which doesn’t necessarily help the overall health of the region.

A caveat. These are estimates, and they are sometimes revised. It’s not uncommon for the census bureau to change population figures in subsequent years. The next formal census is in 2020. There’s currently a national political battle over whether a citizenship question will appear on the form.

Why this matters. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, one of the best ways to grow an economy is to add people. Overall growth for the region is key, as it would indicate a robust economy driven by increased output, not shifting internal demographics. Put simply: over the long term, the parish can’t succeed if Youngsville and Broussard are growing while Lafayette’s MSA and the city of Lafayette itself are shrinking.