DOVER, Del. (AP) _ Lured by the beach and newly developed suburbs, thousands of new residents helped Delaware post an 18 percent population gain during the 1990s, according to census figures released Wednesday.

The tiny state's population last year was 783,600, with most of the growth split between coastal communities in southern Delaware and suburban communities near the northern city of Wilmington.

Overall, the state added 117,432 residents, giving it a density of about 401 people per square mile. Neighboring New Jersey has more than 1,134 people per square mile, making it the most densely populated state.

Only one state, Rhode Island, is geographically smaller than Delaware, but it still has a larger population.

Sussex County, the southernmost of Delaware's three counties, had the greatest percentage increase in population at 38 percent. Home to ocean resort towns like Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach and Fenwick Island, the county is issuing 2,000 building permits each year.

It has nearly 157,000 people but census experts say it is expected to grow to more than 182,000 people in the next 20 years.

According to the census data, most of the state's new citizens turned their noses up at Delaware's towns and cities, choosing instead to live in new housing developments being built in unincorporated areas outside municipal limits.

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On the Net:

http://www.census.gov

http://www.state.de.us