Thursday, January 3, 2008

Deaths Exceed Births in a Third of Counties

An article in USA Today indicates that a third of U.S. counties experienced more deaths than births last year, though some were saved from net population loss by in-migration. Focusing largely on middle America, the story reports a study by University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson. The report adds further perspective to my post earlier this week about the oil boom in North Dakota and what it means for the previously shrinking rural towns there. USA Today reports that Sheridan County, North Dakota, clearly not in the area of the oil boom, has a population of 1,408, having lost a third of its population in the last six years. The median age of Sheridan County's residents: 52.9. Without some economic catalyst for growth -- such as the oil exploration in the northwest part of the state -- already rural North Dakota's population density will continue to fall. Johnson is unsentimental about the trend: "There were a lot of counties in the Great Plains that had more people than they should have had. Agriculture has changed. You don't need as many people working the land. … You can think of it as sort of a triage."

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