Thursday, March 14, 2013

In 36 percent of counties, many if not most rural, more people are dying than are being born

The Associated Press reports, with an atypically overheated verb: "A record number of U.S. counties, more than one in three, are now dying off, hit by an aging population and weakened local economies that are spurring young adults to seek jobs and build families elsewhere. New 2012 census estimates released Thursday highlight the population shifts as the U.S. encounters its most sluggish growth levels since the Great Depression."

From July 2011 through June 2012, deaths exceeded births in 36 percent of counties (1,135 of 3,143), a sizeable jump from the 28 percent reporting "natural decrease" in 2009, the Bureau of the Census reported. Maine, the most rural state, joined West Virginia as states in that category. Slicing up population by county lines shows the data through a rural lens, since most counties are rural but only 16 percent of the population is. The story doesn't say whether most of these counties are rural, but they probably are. It says "Roughly 46 percent of rural counties just beyond the edge of metropolitan areas experienced natural decrease, compared to 17 percent of urban counties."

“These counties are in a pretty steep downward spiral,” Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer and sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, told AP. “The young people leave and the older adults stay in place and age. Unless something dramatic changes — for instance, new development such as a meatpacking plant to attract young Hispanics — these areas are likely to have more and more natural decrease.”

As we have reported here, here and most recently here, the Census Bureau says more counties, urban and rural, would have lost population if not for immigration. "The growing attention on immigrants is coming mostly from areas of the Midwest and Northeast, which are seeing many of their residents leave after years of staying put during the downturn," AP reports. "With a slowly improving U.S. economy, young adults are now back on the move, departing traditional big cities to test the job market mostly in the South and West, which had sustained the biggest hits in the housing bust." (Read more)

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