Idaho Leads the U.S. in Child Population Growth
The U.S. is experiencing a decline in the number of children, with 35 states reporting fewer children than five years ago. While this is due to declining birth rates, young families migrating across state borders in search of affordable housing is also a significant factor.
Impact on Education
States where the number of children has declined face the possibility of teacher layoffs and even school closures when pandemic aid expires next year. A decline in school enrollment could provide short-term cost savings and might be a benefit to children if there are more resources to go around, but it bodes poorly for future state workforces.
In states where the drop in the number of children is part of a broader population decline, there will be additional fiscal, economic and political ramifications, such as diminished representation in Congress. The states with the largest drops were California, Illinois, and New Mexico, where the child population declined by 6% between 2017 and 2022.
Idaho as an Exception
Idaho and North Dakota saw the largest increases, at 4.4% and 4%, respectively. Idaho, in particular, has become known as a picturesque and affordable place to raise children. Though housing prices have risen rapidly throughout Idaho, it is still an attractive option for young families in search of affordable housing options.
Boise is experiencing an influx of new residents from California, and northern Idaho is seeing more movers from Northern California, Washington, and Utah. It might be for ideological reasons, as people look for a more conservative lifestyle, said Jaap Vos, a planning professor at the University of Idaho in Boise.
The Impact of Housing Prices
The declines in child populations in 35 states are due to historically low fertility rates, but high housing prices are also a factor. In California, jobs pay well but the state’s housing shortage has sent prices beyond the means of young families.
“People want to buy a house and have children, but they realize they can’t do it here so they look in the vicinity, states close by, and work remotely so they can keep their California paychecks,” said Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank.
– Slow population growth cost California a seat in Congress after the 2020 census.
– California has experienced a phenomenon shared by other Western states: The children of Hispanic immigrants have lower birth rates than their parents.
– In New Mexico, enrollment has dropped particularly sharply in the northwestern part of the state, where there are many Indigenous students.
The decline in child populations across the majority of U.S. states highlights the need for affordable housing that keeps families together. States like Idaho that are experiencing population growth should take steps to attract more residents, including young families, while also investing in education to ensure future workforces are well-prepared.
Idaho’s child population growth is a beacon of hope amid the decline experienced by most of the U.S. In addition to affordable housing options, the state should focus on improving education to support the growing population and to prepare for the future.