A news analysis from The Washington Post investigated why people want to move to Idaho but leave Wyoming even though the states are relatively similar in terms of landscape and culture.
The answer may lie with coal-mining. Wyoming's population changes based on energy and coal demands. When there aren't many coal industry jobs, people flee the state.
Wyoming's economy is "at the mercy of the boom-and-bust cycles that characterize the global commodity market and sapped incentive to build up a more robust local economy,” according to The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, Idaho has less coal mining than “neighbors such as Utah, Nevada and Wyoming,” The Washington Post reported. Idaho moved on from coal a while ago and no longer bends to its fluctuations.
Instead, people move to the Gem State for other reasons. For example, Boise has become a booming city, WBUR reported.
"Boise's cultural cachet is growing as tourists and new residents seek out its unique food and music scenes, as well as its low cost-of-living," according to WBUR.
Idaho was recently named the fastest-growing state in the union, too, USA Today reported, seeing a 2.2 percent population boom in the last year.
Last year, Idaho ranked No. 2 in the nation for tech sector growth, which included research and development jobs for major companies like Hewlett-Packard and Micron, according to Idaho Business Review.
Idaho's climb may point to a general shift for the population to move westward. Idaho’s neighbor Utah was also ranked one of the fastest-growing states in the union, according to the Deseret News. Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau found the Beehive State to have “a sustainable but strong rate of growth.”
But the report said the state’s fertility rate declined, knocking Utah off its spot as the top state for number of births per woman, according to the Deseret News, which reviewed data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Census population estimates showed that states in the South and West have seen population increases in the last five years. In fact, 16 of the states that make up the South saw an increase of 1.4 million people between 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, the 13 Western states grew by 866,000 people at the same time, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Clearly, the Snow Belt-to-Sun Belt migration is coming back after a huge lull in response to the recession and post-recession period,” demographer William Frey, of the Brookings Institution, told Pew Charitable Trusts. “Up until now, regional migration was not picking up at the same time that other economic indicators — jobs and housing — seemed to be on the upswing.”
Experts agreed with the Deseret News that a rising population in the Southwest isn’t surprising.
"That's continuing a trend that goes back at least until the 1990s, where this area of the country is the most-rapidly growing," said Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.