Census Shows Record 1 in 3 US Counties Are Dying
This is a natural demographic trend that’s happening worldwide, not just here. As agriculture and other rural industries have become more automated, less human labor is needed in rural areas. The same is true of our heavy industries - we don’t make things the way we used to and those industries also use less land, less energy, and less labor. Rather than decrying this trend, we should be celebrating. Less land, less energy, and less human labor are needed to sustain an increased population. Most Cities and metro areas are renewing and growing while wilderness and rural ghost towns grow.
There are many factors involved, and the baby boomers reaching retirement is just one of them. While they watch “Doomsday Preppers” the real survivalists of the baby boom are moving to areas where they are on good water, sewer and power grids. They are migrating to places where high quality hospital care is less than 15 minutes away. They are downsizing houses and cars for more energy efficiency and economy. All of those things are good in the long run for our country, our counties, and our environment.
Census data show that 1,135 of the nation’s 3,143 counties are now experiencing “natural decrease,” where deaths exceed births. That’s up from roughly 880 U.S. counties, or 1 in 4, in 2009. Already apparent in Japan and many European nations, natural decrease is now increasingly evident in large swaths of the U.S.
Despite increasing deaths, the U.S. population as a whole continues to grow, boosted by immigration from abroad and relatively higher births among the mostly younger migrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia.
“These counties are in a pretty steep downward spiral,” said Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer and sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, who researched the findings. “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.”
The areas of natural decrease stretch from industrial areas near Pittsburgh and Cleveland to the vineyards outside San Francisco to the rural areas of east Texas and the Great Plains. A common theme is a waning local economy, such as farming, mining or industrial areas. They also include some retirement communities in Florida, although many are cushioned by a steady flow of new retirees each year.
In the last year, Maine joined West Virginia as the only two entire states where deaths exceed births, which have dropped precipitously after the recent recession. As a nation, the U.S. population grew by just 0.75 percent last year, stuck at historically low levels not seen since 1937.