Sunday, May 18, 2008

A few cities suffering the population loss associated with rural America

A story in today's NYT is headlined "As Deaths Outpace Births, Cities Adjust." The story is actually about just a handful of cities (e.g., Buffalo, Duluth, Pittsburgh) experiencing the phenomenon of "natural" decrease in population, i.e., deaths outpacing births. In spite of the article's focus on cities, the counties suffering steepest population loss (as depicted in the graphic/map) are in the Plains states, with a few others scattered widely across the country. Appalachia doesn't reflect the steepest decline, but a fairly consistent decline is evident across the northern part of that region (West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania, for example). So, to a great extent, this story (and certainly the graphic/map accompanying it) is about rural and small-town America, which get mentioned:

What demographers call a natural decrease has been occurring for years in tiny rural towns and in some retirement meccas in the South. But the phenomenon is relatively new in metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the Rust Belt of the Middle West and Appalachia.

Another interesting thing about the map that accompanies the story is that the natural increase/decrease it depicts is nevertheless greatly impacted by immigration. I've recently written about the influx of Latina/os into the non-metropolitan South, where their presence is not only bolstering sheer numbers, it is also associated with a boom in births that is countering the graying of the rural areas where they are concentrated.

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