Low Fertility Rates, High Housing Prices Mean Fewer Children in Most States
The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau has revealed that 35 states have fewer children than they did five years ago. While declining birth rates nationwide play a significant part in this trend, young families migrating across state borders in search of cheaper housing is also contributing to the situation.
Reasons for the Population Decline
Even in the 15 states that gained children, all but North Dakota faced greater growth in the adult population, meaning children now represent a lower percentage of residents.
In states where the number of children has declined, school officials face the possibility of teacher layoffs or even school closures when pandemic aid expires next year. A reduction in school enrollment could provide short-term cost savings, and it might benefit 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.
States with the Most Significant Decrease in Child Population
The latest analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Stateline confirms that California, Illinois, and New Mexico saw the highest decline in child population – by 6% between 2017 and 2022. In contrast, Idaho and North Dakota witnessed the most significant increases at 4%.
The factors contributing to this decline are historically low fertility rates, which have been below the replacement rate of two children per woman since 2010. The high housing prices are also contributing to the trend in the 35 states (including California) experiencing declines as jobs pay well, but the state’s housing shortage has sent prices beyond the means of young families. So, they look in neighboring states, commuting and working remotely while retaining their California paychecks.
Impact on Education and Indigenous Students
Recent reports reveal that California, Illinois, and New Mexico have all seen lower school enrollment in recent years, even as they’ve tried to rekindle interest in public education after pandemic upheavals.
In New Mexico, enrollment has declined sharply in the northwestern part of the state, where many Indigenous students reside. Between 2012 and 2022, enrollment dropped by 22% in the majority-Native Central Consolidated Schools in San Juan County compared with a statewide decline of 7%. Indigenous and other children in the rural area struggle to stay in school because of long bus commutes and lack of internet access at home.
The recent closure of a coal mine induced many families with children to move away from San Juan County to find jobs, forcing them to relocate to Phoenix or elsewhere out of state to earn the same wages. It affected the local tribes, Hopi and Navajo, Diné. Seeing the impacts makes my heart break. These are all my children, and they deserve the best in education and in life.
Impact on Idaho
Idaho has become known as a picturesque and affordable place to raise children, with a lot of new residents from California moving to Boise and northern Idaho seeing more movers from Northern California, Washington, and Utah. It might be for ideological reasons, and people looking for a more conservative lifestyle, although some people have left Boise as it has grown more crowded.
The number of adults in Idaho has grown by 16% during the past five years, and the state’s annual school enrollment has been increasing, except for temporary drops early in the pandemic. However, Idaho is bracing for a decline starting in 2025 when children from a historic 2007 baby boom in the state start turning 18.
Regardless of where families move, housing prices in Idaho are increasing rapidly, even in northern Idaho.
Writer Leah Hampton is moving from North Carolina to Moscow in northern Idaho to teach at the University of Idaho.
- High housing prices in California, along with high taxes, are among the reasons that tech firms like Oracle and HP have relocated out of the state in recent years.
- The steep cost of living in New York City and Los Angeles is causing young people to move to states like Texas, Florida, and Nevada.
- The population of young people in rural areas, where job opportunities are sparse, is declining as many young people migrate to urban areas in search of better-paying jobs.
The decline in child population in most states is predominantly due to low fertility rates and high housing prices. This trend is likely to have a significant impact on future state workforces, fiscal, economic, and political ramifications, such as diminished representation in Congress, and a decline in education offerings. These factors point to the need for policies that support the growth of child populations in states experiencing a decline.
The decline in child populations in 35 states, as per the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, is an alarming trend that requires attention from state and federal policymakers. The causes of this trend are multifactorial, but low fertility rates and high housing prices are the primary culprits. All states experiencing the drop in child population must take active steps to remedy the situation to avoid long-term economic and social consequences.