Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Baby Bust Is Hurting Rural America

Forty percent of the nation's 3,000-plus counties have experienced more deaths than births since 2010, according to the Census Bureau's latest county population estimates. The aging of the population (more deaths), drug overdoses (more deaths), and the ongoing baby bust (fewer births) has resulted in negative natural increase (births minus deaths) in huge swaths of the country.

Rural areas have been hit particularly hard by the one-two punch of more deaths and fewer births. Negative natural increase is a big reason for the population decline in many rural counties. Nearly half or more of the counties ranking 6, 7, 8, and 9 on the Rural-Urban Continuum experienced more deaths than births in the 2010-to-2017 time period.

The Rural-Urban Continuum (RUC) is the federal government's way of classifying counties by their degree of urbanity. The continuum is a scale ranging from 1 (the most urban counties, in metropolitan areas of 1 million or more) to 9 (the most rural counties, lacking any settlements of 2,500 or more people and not adjacent to a metropolitan area). If you sort the nation's 3,000-plus counties by their rank on the continuum, then measure the percentage of counties in each rank in which deaths outnumbered births from 2010 to 2017, this is the result...

Percent of counties with more deaths than births by RUC rank, 2010-2017

1. 13.2% of counties in metros with 1 million or more people
2. 26.7% of counties in metros of 250,000 to 1 million people
3. 27.5% of counties in metros with less than 250,000 people
4. 34.1% of nonmetro counties with urban pop of 20,000-plus, adjacent to metro
5. 23.9% of nonmetro counties with urban pop of 20,000-plus, not adjacent to metro
6. 48.6% of nonmetro counties with urban pop of 2,500–19,999, adjacent to metro
7. 48.7% of nonmetro counties with urban pop of 2,500–19,999, not adjacent to metro 
8. 68.3% of nonmetro counties with urban pop less than 2,500, adjacent to metro 
9. 59.1% of nonmetro counties with urban pop less than 2,500, not adjacent to metro 

The most urban counties were least likely to have negative natural increase—only 13 percent of big-city counties experienced more deaths than births since 2010.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Rural-Urban Continuum Codes and Census Bureau, County Population Totals and Components of Change: 2010–2017

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