Many U.S. Counties Facing Shrinking Populations

March 15, 2013

More than one in three U.S. counties -- a record number -- are losing its population, according to new census data. A growing number of counties are watching their population fall due to an aging population and weakened economies that have prompted younger people to move elsewhere looking for jobs.

Many places in the Midwest and Northeast are seeing residents leave, with young adults moving for jobs to the South and West. Rural and exurban areas, such as industrial sections of the Rust Belt, have seen some of the largest population declines as well. 

Of the country’s 3,143 counties, 1,135 counties are seeing a “natural decrease,” where deaths are exceeding births. Some of the areas seeing the largest “natural decreases” are near Pittsburgh and Cleveland, as well as rural areas of east Texas and the Great Plains.

At a state level, Maine and West Virginia are the only two states where deaths are exceeding births. 

The overall U.S. population, however, is growing due to immigration and higher birth rates from younger migrants from Mexico, Latin America, and Asia, the census finds.

Without new immigrants, even large metros such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis would have posted flat or negative population growth in the past year, according to the census data. 

Source: “1 in 3 U.S. Counties Are Losing People, Census Data Show,” The Associated Press (March 14, 2013)

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