The Ranger (beta)

Fremont County's Daily Newspaper

News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.

Ranger Login

Low population has its perks

Jan 3, 2014 - By Chris Peck

Stats don't lie: With more people come more problems

The latest U.S. Census figures are out, and once again Wyoming has the smallest population of any state.

Like fine wine or rare cars, is small still beautiful?

Mostly yes.

People can be a mess. So it follows that fewer people will mean fewer messy problems.

Examples:

Wyoming enjoys the fifth-lowest murder rate in America;

Wyoming has the sixth-lowest overall crime rate of any state;

Houses in Wyoming average 50 percent less in price than Washington, D.C., even when you count Jackson Hole in the Wyoming averages.

So yes, being small can be beautiful.

And, paradoxically, by being small, Wyoming lives large by other national measures.

Yes, Wyoming now counts a 50-state low of 582,000 residents.

But those 582,000 get much more of the federal pie and have much bigger political clout than states 10 times as big.

On average, for example, a resident of Wyoming receives $8,700 worth of federal government services, programs and wages. That includes payments for Medicare, Medicaid, federal dollars for highways, parks, and other federal programs.

Those dollars from D.C. that come to Wyoming residents average about $2,500 a head more than a residents of Texas or California receive on average.

Wyoming's 582,000 residents also get to elect two U.S. Senators, whose votes matter just as much as the two U.S. Senators from Texas and California, which have 26 million and 36 million residents.

And here's one more real benefit of in living in a small state - jobs.

Thanks to the energy boom that has boosted the Wyoming economy for decades, the unemployment rate in the state is nearly 50 percent lower (5 percent vs. 7 percent nationally) than average.

More important, Wyoming in 2012 led the nation in the percentage of "middle wage" jobs created.

Whereas much of America is seeing a hollowing out of the workforce that isn't filthy rich or grindingly poor, Wyoming got it just right.

About 47 percent of the 7,400 jobs created in the state over the last three years went to the so-called middle-wage workers who earn between $13 and $21 an hour.

Nobody did better at keeping the middle-income households growing.

Is there any downside that comes with living in the nation's least populous state?

That's for the hearty residents of Wyoming to discuss.

Weather can be an issue.

Hitting an antelope on the highway is a worry.

You pay a little extra for vegetables in winter.

But for the most part, and by most measures, life is good in the state where the fewest call it home.

Related content: