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Rural Depopulation in a Rapidly Urbanizing America

February 6, 2019

This brief examines demographic trends in rural America, a region often overlooked in a nation dominated by urban interests. Yet, 46 million people live in rural areas that encompass 72 percent of the land area of the United States. "Rural America" is a simple term that describes a remarkably diverse collection of people and places. It encompasses vast agricultural regions that are among the most productive in the world; sprawling exurban areas just beyond the urban fringe; successful ultra-modern industrial, energy, and warehousing complexes strung along rural interstates; regions where coal, ore, oil, gas, and timber are extracted, processed, and shipped; struggling factory towns facing intense global competition; and fast-growing recreational areas situated near scenic mountains and lakes.

Data Snapshot: U.S. Population Growth Continues to Slow Due to Fewer Births and More Deaths

December 20, 2018

The U.S. population grew by just 2,020,000 or 0.62 percent between July 2017 and July 2018 according to recent Census Bureau estimates. This is the lowest population growth rate since 1937. A major contributor to the nation's recent low growth rate is the diminishing surplus of births over deaths—what demographers call natural increase. There were just 1,041,000 more births than deaths last year, the smallest natural increase in more than 70 years. When fewer babies are born and more deaths occur, population growth slows. Last year, there was a record number of deaths (2,814,000), but relatively few births (3,856,000). Just ten years ago, the surplus of births over deaths was 44 percent higher (1,860,000). This dwindling excess of births over deaths is occurring nationwide. Natural increase diminished in all but North Dakota and the District of Columbia over the past ten years. The reduction was substantial in many states; twelve experienced at least a 60 percent reduction in natural increase during this period and another twenty-four experienced declines of 40 to 60 percent. In West Virginia and Maine, more people are now dying than being born. The sharp reductions in natural increase make states increasingly dependent on migration to fuel significant population growth. And, in the nine states without sufficient natural increase to offset migration losses, the population declined last year.

More Young Adult Migrants Moving to New Hampshire from Other U.S. Locations

December 6, 2018

New Hampshire received a significant net inflow of people from other U.S. states between 2013 and 2017 according to new Census Bureau estimates. The average annual domestic migration gain was 5,900 between 2013 and 2017. In contrast, only about 100 more people moved to New Hampshire than left it for other U.S. destinations annually during the Great Recession and its aftermath between 2008 and 2012. The transformation was greatest among those in their 20s, who had an average annual migration gain of 1,200 between 2013 and 2017 compared to an average loss of 1,500 annually from 2008 to 2012. Among those in their 30s, the net annual migration gain nearly doubled during the same period, while the net inflow of those 40 to 49 diminished slightly. As more family age adults migrated to New Hampshire, their children fueled a significant increase in the net influx of those under age 20. In contrast, among those age 50 and over, the net outflow of people from the state increased slightly. Modest immigration from other countries at all ages supplemented the domestic migration gains analyzed here. These recent domestic and immigrant migration gains are both modest, but they provide additional human and social capital to a state challenged by an aging workforce and population.

Domestic Migration and Fewer Births Reshaping America

March 22, 2018

New Census Bureau data released on March 22, 2018, demonstrate the continuing influence of domestic migration on U.S. demographic trends. Migration patterns are reverting to those common before the recession. Suburban counties of large metropolitan areas, smaller metropolitan areas, and rural counties proximate to metropolitan areas all gained more domestic migrants in the last year. In contrast, domestic migration losses grew in the core counties of metropolitan areas of 1 million or more and remained substantial in rural counties that are not adjacent to an urban area. 

Moving to Diversity

April 4, 2017

America is growing more racially and ethnically diverse, yet some parts of the country are far more diverse than others. Migration—the flow of people from one place to another—influences local diversity by continually redistributing the population and altering the racial mix in both the sending and receiving communities. Migration can serve an integrating function when people from different races move into the same area, but it can also reinforce existing racial boundaries and diminish local diversity when people from different racial groups sort themselves into homogeneous communities.

White Deaths Exceed Births in One-Third of U.S. States

November 29, 2016

In 2014, deaths among non-Hispanic whites exceeded births in more states than at any time in U.S. history. Seventeen states, home to 121 million residents or roughly 38 percent of the U.S. population, had more deaths than births among non-Hispanic whites (hereafter referred to as whites) in 2014, compared to just four in 2004. When births fail to keep pace with deaths, a region is said to have a "natural decrease" in population, which can only be offset by migration gains. In twelve of the seventeen states with white natural decreases, the white population diminished overall between 2013 and 2014.This research is the first to examine the growing incidence of white natural decrease among U.S. states and to consider its policy implications. Our analysis of the demographic factors that cause white natural decrease suggests that the pace is likely to pick up in the future.

Forests in Flux: The Effects of Demographic Change on Forest Cover in New England and New York

May 10, 2016

The New England states and New York are more than 50 percent forested, a rate well above the national average. Economies in this heavily forested region have historically relied on forest-based industries, and human population has clustered along coastal regions and major waterways, though recent trends suggest widespread in-migration to amenity-rich rural areas. Over the last decade, all states in this region have experienced notable declines in forest cover. In urban and suburban areas like southern New Hampshire, this loss of forest cover is likely related to increased demand for housing and services. It is also likely to be a permanent transition, since developed land rarely reverts to forest cover. Much of the forest cover loss in rural northern New England is due to commercial timber harvesting and is likely temporary, but in other portions of northern New England forest cover has declined consistently since 2001, and it is unclear whether this shift is the result of development or forest harvesting. These two types of forest cover change can have drastically different effects on the services local residents derive from forests. Because more developed regions have already lost much of their forest cover, a sustained loss of the remaining forestland has serious implications for vital ecosystem services like drinking water filtration, storm abatement, and air purification. This brief contributes to a better understanding of the linkages between demographic and forest cover change so as to inform policy efforts aimed at maintaining existing forested areas in and around sprawling urban centers.

First in the Nation

January 26, 2016

More than half a million people are expected to participate in the New Hampshire 2016 Presidential Primary. The time-honored symbol of the primary is the laconic Yankee with deep ancestral roots in the state, who dismisses fourth-generation residents as newcomers. Certainly such voters exist, but in reality most Granite State residents arrived only recently. In fact, New Hampshire's population is among the most mobile in the nation. Only a third of New Hampshire residents age 25 and older were born in the state. Such migration, coupled with the natural change in the population as young voters come of age and older generations of voters pass from the scene, has produced considerable turnover in the voting population. More than 30 percent of potential voters this year were either not old enough to vote in 2008, or resided somewhere other than New Hampshire. Such demographic turnover contributes to the changing political landscape of the state, which has important implications both for the Presidential Primary and the November general election.

Deaths Exceed Births in Most of Europe, But Not in the United States

December 15, 2015

With the increased attention to Europe's demographic future stimulated by the on-going immigration crisis, we present important new findings about the diminishing number of births compared to deaths in Europe and the United States from our recent article in Population and Development Review. When births fail to keep pace with deaths in a country there is a "natural" decrease in population and a substantial risk of population loss—loss that can often only be avoided by increased migration. Seventeen European nations have more people dying in them than being born, including several of Europe's most populous countries. In contrast, in the United States, births exceed deaths by a substantial margin. See Figure 1.Our research focuses on the prevalence and dynamics of natural decrease in subareas of Europe and the United States in the first decade of the twenty-first century using counties (United States) or county-equivalents (Europe). We find that 58 percent of the 1,391 counties of Europe had more deaths than births during that period compared to just 28 percent of the 3,137 U.S. counties. Natural decrease is often intermittent at first with deaths exceeding births in some years, but not in others. Later, it becomes more persistent. In Europe, 41 percent of the counties had more deaths than births in every year we studied; 30 percent had it in some years; and in 29 percent births always exceeded deaths. Natural decrease was far less prevalent in the United States, where 11 percent of the counties had natural decrease in each year; 35 percent in some years; and in the majority of counties (53 percent) births always exceeded deaths. See Figure 2. 

The Increasing Diversity of America's Youth: Children Lead the Way to a New Era

April 22, 2014

Children are in the vanguard of America's increasing racial and ethnic diversity. The majority of newborn babies today are among racial and ethnic minority populations, according to recent Census Bureau estimates. U.S. Census Bureau projections indicate that by 2043, non-Hispanic whites will cease to be a majority of the American population. For America's children and youth, the future is now. American diversity is fueled by differing fertility rates among racial and ethnic groups, changes in the racial composition of women of childbearing age, and immigration. Here we document how unfolding demographic forces have placed today's children and youth at the forefront of America's new racial and ethnic diversity. America's rapidly changing racial and ethnic composition hasimportant implications for intergroup relations, ethnic identities, and electoral politics.