We’re Shrinking!

The world is having fewer babies. Consequently, populations are starting to contract.

It appears two of the main reasons people are having fewer kids are:

  1. The high cost of rearing them, including exorbitant college costs (made worse, in part, by public policies that prioritize old people over children); and
  2. The adverse impact childbirth can have on a mother’s career and career prospects.

Are all the major countries on the way to becoming Japan, where more adult diapers are sold than baby diapers?

If so, what are the implications for our economies and societies?

America Tilts South and West

Population growth in the U.S. is at 80 year lows due to record low birth rates and a decline in longevity (Americans are dying earlier, on average, thanks to its decaying culture and failures of capitalism). Without immigration (which accounts for nearly half of our growth), the economic impact would be more dramatic.

The most recent population figures released by the Census Bureau show the shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West continues unabated.

Nine states have actually shrunk in population since 2010: New York (high taxes and high property values in NYC), Illinois (major fiscal problems), West Virginia (shrinking coal industry), Louisiana (Katrina), Hawaii (high cost of living), Mississippi (Katrina and lack of industry), Alaska (lower oil prices), Connecticut (high taxes), and Wyoming (lower oil prices).

The states with the highest rate of population growth are Nevada (flight from costly California), Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Florida. Climate seems to play a major role here.

All of this is relevant, particularly to a young person, because it points to where growth and job opportunities are likely to be robust and, conversely, to the places where opportunities may be more limited.

It also highlights shifting political sands. For instance, my native state of Pennsylvania will continue to lose political muscle as its share of the U.S. population shrinks while the political muscle of the last state in which I lived, Colorado, builds. Western Pennsylvania is not done transitioning from a steel and coal economy, a transition that decimated many communities.

If the reapportionment of U.S. House seats was done using this year’s data, Texas would gain two seats, while Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Oregon would each gain one. (See this cool graphic.)

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia would each lose a seat, with Rhode Island falling to a single representative.

All and all, more bad news for colleges in the Northeast and Midwest, where quite a few more will end up closing over the next 10 to 20 years.

And more bad news for taxpayers in those shrinking or stagnant states, who will have to bear the cost of decades of bad political decisions that have resulted in major public pension deficits and crumbling infrastructure.

In sum, there continues to be a strong case to be made to move to Idaho, Utah, Colorado, or Texas. I’m still waiting for Albuquerque to spring to life. It’s the most underperforming high potential city in America.

Are People Leaving or Moving to Your State?

As the above shows, the gainers continue to include the Southeast, Texas, the Mountain States, and the Northwest. The losers are led by Illinois (I’m still amazed anyone who can leave stays there given the dire fiscal and tax situation and crappy weather) and New York (which continues to hemorrhage retirees to Florida). Those who can bail on Kansas, too, as the Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature do their best to destroy the economy and social fabric of the state in the stupidest experiment I’ve ever seen any state run. I continue to wonder how Arizona and Nevada are going to water their expanding populations. And, of course, there is New Mexico: the most underperforming state of all. Given its location and climate, it should be growing, yet somehow manages to make itself as unappealing and dysfunctional as possible.