Category Archives: Demographics

Where the Millennials Are Moving

Map credit: Time

Time has produced a confusing article on how Millennials “are moving to America’s cities,” using the terms “cities,” “urban areas,” and “metropolitan areas” interchangeably. But the main thrust of the report seems clear enough: Some metros are seeing a faster increase in the Millennial population than others. Indeed, 11 metros actually lost Millennials.

The reason the article caught my eye is that the two metros with the fastest-growing 25- to 34-year-old populations between 2010 and 2015 are…. drum roll….

No. 1: Hampton Roads — up 16.4%, a gain of 7,034.

No. 2: Richmond — up 14.9%, a gain of 5,176.

Larger metropolitan areas such as Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, Baltimore, and New York showed larger gains in absolute numbers, but the percentage increases were much lower.  It is especially satisfying to see the two Virginia metros out-performing “hot” metros such as Austin and Raleigh. Heh! Heh!

For all I know, these numbers are a statistical fluke. (Are the Hampton Roads numbers driven by an increase in young military personnel?) But, then, maybe they’re not. Maybe Hampton Roads and Richmond have a good vibe and really are luring young people. The migration portends good things for the future.

Caution: James V. Koch, an Old Dominion University economics professor (and ODU president emeritus) urges readers to view these numbers with caution. First, despite the implication of the Time article, these are not migration numbers; they are population numbers, which include not only migration but natural population increase/decrease. Second, he can’t tell where the numbers come from. The statistics he has seen show out-migration from Hampton Roads.

Boomergeddon Watch: Illinois and Puerto Rico

S&P Global has warned that Illinois’ debt could be downgraded to junk bond status if the state doesn’t get its fiscal affairs in order. Paralyzed by partisan gridlock, the Prairie State hasn’t had a budget in two years. Since the Great Depression, no other state has gone for more than a year without a budget, reports the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the state’s unfunded pension liability exceeds $130 billion, and its backlog of unpaid bills has hit a record high of $14.3 billion.

If S&P, Moody’s and Fitch all downgrade Illinois debt to junk status, the state will be in violation of numerous loan covenants which could trigger more than $100 million in penalties, and make state and municipal debt even more expensive.

In parallel developments, Bloomberg reports today that the bankrupt Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has lost two percent of its population in each of the last three years. Since the economy began contracting a decade ago, the cumulative loss amounts to 400,000 residents from an island with population of 3.4 million today. By contrast, Puerto Rico’s fiscal turnaround plan assumes that the population will shrink only 0.2% each year over the next decade. Good luck with that!

The exodus means that fewer people will remain to shoulder the island’s $74 billion debt, trapping Puerto Rico in a vicious cycle of a contracting economy, cutbacks to core government services, and a population fleeing the deteriorating conditions.

Hmmm. As its turns out, Illinois is one of only seven U.S. states that experienced a population decline in 2016. Between 2000 and 2010, the population grew only 3.3%, one third the national rate. Then the population has declined every year since 2013 by a cumulative total of about six-tenths of a percent. A 2016 poll found that 47% of respondents said they would like to leave the state, citing taxes, the weather, government, and poor job opportunities in that order as the reason.

Just think what will happen when the next recession comes. Instead of Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl, we’ll see Illini fleeing the Blue State governance model.

Marriage, Fertility and Male Earnings

North Dakota fracking: higher male incomes did not translate into higher rates of marriage.

One of the great debates in the social science of poverty asks what accounts for the decline in marriage and the increase in out-of-wedlock births. There is a broad consensus among scholars of diverse ideological persuasions that children born into stable marriages tend to fare better in life than those raised by single mothers. The question is why the institution of marriage has declined so precipitously among lower-income Americans even while it remains strong and vibrant among affluent Americans.

In a new paper, “Male Earnings, Marriageable Men, and Nonmartial Fertility: Evidence from the Fracking Boom,” Melisa S. Kearney and Riley Wilson frame the issue this way:

In 2014, over 40 percent of all births in the U.S. were to an unmarried mother, with an even higher rate of 62 percent among non-college educated mothers. A leading conjecture as to why so many less-educated women are choosing motherhood without marriage points to the weak economic prospects of their male partners. The idea is that changing labor market structures and economic conditions have adversely affected the economic prospects of less educated men, making them less “marriageable” from the perspective of the women with whom they sexually partner.

Kearney and Wilson have flipped that conjecture around and hypothesize that improving earnings prospects by non-college educated males would be associated with an increase in marriage and marital childbirth. They tested that hypothesis by examining family formation between 1997 and 2012 in Census micro-areas experiencing a natural gas fracking boom, where non-college educated males experienced a jump in earnings compared to their peers in the rest of the country.

The result: “This analysis does not indicate shift toward marriage in response to an increase in the potential wages of less-educated men associated with localized fracking booms. But both marital and non-marital births increase significantly.”

The authors compared the fracking boom of the 2000s to the Appalachian coal boom of the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, in a different cultural era, increased earnings led to an increase in marriage rates, an increase in the marital birth rate, and a decline in the non-marital birth rate.”

In other words, the conjecture linking men’s income with their marriage prospects may have been valid 4o years ago, but it’s less valid today. Write Kearney and Wilson: “As non-martial births have become increasingly common, individuals are more likely to respond to increased income with increased fertility, whether or not they are married, and not necessarily an increased likelihood of marriage.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The interplay of economics and culture is incredibly complex. But the findings suggest that among a large portion of the American population, marriage is increasingly viewed as optional — regardless of the father’s economic circumstances. Further, out-of-wedlock birth is no longer stigmatized. This research calls into question the idea that blue-collar male earnings are the main stumbling block to family stability. We have passed a cultural Rubicon, and there may be no going back without a major change in values.

Feeling Pretty Good: C-ville and Lynchburg

Charlottesville ranked 6th nationally in the Gallup/Healthways ranking of community well being, Lynchburg 8th.

Charlottesville ranked 6th nationally in the Gallup/Healthways ranking of community well being, Lynchburg 8th.

When evaluating community well being, statisticians tend to focus on objective criteria such as average income, tax levels, educational achievement, life expectancy and the like. But there also are subjective criteria involving how people feel about things. Gallup Inc., the polling organization, has partnered with Healthways, a well being and wellness provider to employers, to measure how people feel.

According to the Gallup-Healthways 2016 Community Well-Being Rankings, inhabitants of two metros in Virginia are feeling pretty darned good about themselves: Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Charlottesville scored fifth out of 189 metros on the survey, Lynchburg 8th.

Virginia’s other metros didn’t fare so well. Washington ranked 44th, Richmond 106th, Virginia Beach 107th, and Roanoke 168th. The state of Virginia scored a meager 21st among the 50 states.

Definitions of Gallup-Healthways well-being categories.

The big question is, how did Charlottesville and Lynchburg do it? One thing they have in common with each other and other high-scoring metros is size. Their populations are small compared to other metros. Big metros did not fare well in this survey. Also, both are big college towns — the University of Virginia in one, Liberty University in the other. But otherwise, they would seem to have little in common. Politically, the Charlottesville area leans liberal/Democrat, Lynchburg conservative/ Republican. Charlottesville leans secular, Lynchburg leans religious.

Still, both communities scored high  in the “social” ranking — “having supportive relationships and love in  your life.” Charlottesville did especially well in the “physical” component of the index, having good health and energy, while Lynchburg excelled in its community feeling, “liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Gallup/Healthways provide a useful service by quantifying community attributes that aren’t captured in government statistics. There’s more to life than GDP and household income. That’s always worth remembering.

How Virginia’s Slowing Population Growth Plays Out Locally

Virginia's population growth is slowing, but four distinct patterns emerge within the state.

Virginia’s population growth is slowing overall, but four distinct patterns emerge within the state.

Speaking of slower population growth… Even though Virginia’s population growth is slowing overall, the dynamics play out differently at a local and regional level.

Luke Juday, director of planning for the City of Waynesboro, has developed a useful schema for examining Virginia’s cities and counties. He has created a matrix based on two variables: whether a locality is experiencing net in-migration or out-migration, and whether it is experiencing natural increase or natural decrease. Writing in the January 2017 issue of the Virginia News Letter, he describes four categories:

Booming. Booming localities are experiencing both in-migration and natural population increase. One sub-set of this group consists of central metropolitan areas such as Arlington County, and the cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville and Richmond, which are experiencing a renaissance fueled by waves of incoming young adults. Another sub-set is comprised of suburban or exurban counties experiencing significant in-migration. Three examples are Montgomery, Albemarle and Rockingham counties.

The great challenge for booming counties, writes Juday, is accommodating that growth. Providing room for an expanding population can keep housing prices from skyrocketing, thus avoiding future issues. On the other hand, these localities need to be sure that what they build withstands the test of time.

Shedding. Shedding communities continue to gain population through natural increase but are experiencing out-migration. Examples include Fairfax County, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and Newport News. In some instances, the key driver is a high cost of housing and limited housing options that push young families out of the jurisdiction. In others, however, Juday suggests, inner cities may be affordable but they’re not desirable. The challenge is to find new ways to add housing and/or make the locality a more attractive place to live.

Attracting. These communities are losing population through natural decrease, yet still manage to attract in-migration. This pattern is particularly common in the New River, Central Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay areas that can exploit their natural beauty to attract older adults in compensation of lower birth rates.

Declining. Declining localities are experiencing both out-migration and natural decrease. Residents are aging, and no one is replacing them. These counties are concentrated in Southwest and Southside Virginia, with a smattering along the Blue Ridge. These jurisdictions face the greatest challenge. How do they promote economic development, and how do they maintain the level of government services?

Declining localities, suggests Juday, need to cope with eroding populations the same way that Youngstown, Ohio, did in the 1990s: planning for population decrease by structuring public service and infrastructure projects to be sustainable with a smaller population. Regional cooperation is one way to accomplish that aim.

For both attracting and declining communities, Juday also suggests linking to a nearby metropolitan area to entice highly educated and well-paid commuters to patronize local services and agricultural businesses. Such a strategy would likely be more successful than trying to attract new industry. Floyd County reversed population by attracting workers who enjoyed the county’s quality of life and commuted to the Blacksburg metropolitan area. Counties outside of Washington, D.C., have seen similar trends.

Similarly, these localities can find ways to serve metropolitan economies from afar, most obviously by attracting retirees and vacationers. The Chesapeake Bay counties, Blue Ridge counties, and counties around Smith Mountain Lake have reinvigorated local economies by appealing to outsiders who build and purchase homes.

Graph of the Day: People Still Leaving Virginia

Virginia lost population through out-migration for the third year running in 2014-2015, according to IRS tax return data. As a consequence, the Old Dominion grew by the smallest number — 44,000 residents — since the 1970s. What little growth that did occur could be attributed to natural increase, births over deaths, write Hamilton Lombard and Kathryn Crespin in the StatChat blog.

Fairfax County net out-migration to counties shown in red, in-migration from counties shown in green. Source: StatChat.

Lombard and Crespin attribute the poor growth numbers to an economy pummeled by sequestration-related cutbacks in federal spending. More people have been leaving Northern Virginia, once the state’s population powerhouse, than have been moving in. The authors honed in on Fairfax County, the most populous county in Northern Virginia (and the state). Their data show that the county still draws in-migrants from the northeast corridor but is losing population to downstate Virginia, Florida, the Carolinas and Texas.

The StatChat post also examines demographic shifts by age. Virginia counties and cities with fewer than 100,000 residents (a proxy for rural/small-town Virginia) actually gained modestly among school-age children and folks over 35 but lost thousands of residents in the young adult cohort between 2000 and 2010 (preceding the previously described data). By contrast, larger localities saw big gains in young adults and a loss of 60- to 75-year-olds.

The data suggest to Lombard and Crespin that a temporary sequestration-related drain of Northern Virginia population is overlaid on a longer-term trend of rural/small town decline. “Even if the new administration and Congress decide to end the federal budget sequestration,” they write, “Virginia’s smaller communities won’t necessarily see increased in-migration and population growth as a result.”

A New Toy for Wonks: Interactive Death Map

Virginia death map

Mortality rates, all causes, 2014. Source: U.S. Health Map.

Virginia has mortality rates roughly in line with the national average, although there are wide variations within the state, as can be seen in part in this image captured from the U.S. Health Map published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Not surprisingly, the highest mortality rates are found in the impoverished Southwest and Southside regions.

The very highest mortality rates within the Old Dominion are located in the far Southwest. Excepting a handful of localities in the Dakotas (which I suspect are home to Indian reservations) the highest mortality rates in the country are in the Central Appalachia. This is coal mining country, and it should come as no surprise that the population there has the nation’s highest rate of respiratory-related fatalities, no doubt reflecting the prevalence of black lung disease.

Virginia’s coal-mining counties share many economic and cultural attributes with their super high-mortality neighbors across the border in Kentucky and West Virginia. I’m not sure why the mortality rates on the Virginia side of the border are notably lower (though still high by comparison with the rest of the state). The rate of chronic respiratory disease is just as high in  Virginia’s coal-mining counties. Mental and substance abuse disorders are almost as high.

But mortality from cardiovascular disease is measurably lower. Why would that be? Is poverty is less endemic? Is there a better (or less bad) health care system? Whatever the reason, it bears analysis.

What the 50 States Would Look Like If…

new_fifty_states

Click for larger image.

Here’s what the 50 states would look like if they were based upon contemporary economic realities — commuting patterns — instead of geography and history. The map is based upon research by Garrett Nelson, a historical geographer at Dartmouth College. “Why should we think that areas which were drawn up for horses and buggies still make sense for interstates and telecommuting?” he rhetorically asked the Washington Post.

I expect such a division would make many Northern Virginia readers happy. I’m pretty partial myself to Virginia’s current boundaries. As publisher of a state-focused blog, I’d hate to limit my pontificating to a Norfolk-Richmond-Charlottesville-Staunton axis — although picking up North Carolina’s Outer Banks would have its consolations.

Number of High School Grads Leveling Off

Projected number of Virginia high school graduates through 2034

Yearly number of Virginia high school graduates. Source: “Knocking at the College Door.

Virginia should experience a surge in the number of high school graduates through 2025 before dropping off by 2030, bucking a national trend in which the number declines by 4%. The projections made by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education are designed to help state systems of higher education conduct their long-term planning.

Trends differ sharply by region, notes the report, “Knocking at the College Door.” The proportion of high school graduates in the South actually is expected to increase: from about 33% of all graduates nationally in the early 2000s to 47% by 2025. That increase will be more than offset by declining numbers of graduates in the Northeastern and Midwestern states.

Nationally, the decline will be driven primarily by a shrinking number (and percentage) of white high school graduates, while the percentage of Asians and Hispanics increase and the percentage of blacks remain roughly the same.

racial_breakdown

Virginia high school graduates by race/ethnicity.

Private schools: The number of private school graduates from Virginia is projected to decrease sharply: 31% by 2031-32. That translates into 2,000 fewer per year. As a percentage of all Virginia high school grads, private schoolers should decline from 7.2% of the total in 2010-11 to 5.1% by 2031-32.

The report provided no explanation for Virginia’s precipitous drop in the number of private schoolers, but atributed the slide nationally to large declines in the number of Catholic schools

Chart of the Day: Shrinking Workforce

workforce_growth

Map credit: StatChat blog

This chart, published by Hamilton Lombard on the StatChat blog, shows how the working-age population of the United States has begun shrinking in much of the United States. While metropolitan areas still experience a growing workforce as they suck up labor from rural counties, even urban growth is slower than it was ten to fifteen years ago.

Workforce growth 2000-2005.

Workforce growth 2000-2005.

The downside of this trend, is that working Americans will have to support a fast-growing population of elderly Americans, along with the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs that benefit them. As has been widely publicized, government will become increasingly hard-pressed to finance these entitlements in the absence of meaningful reform.

The bright side of the story is that intensifying competition for workers should translate into lower unemployment and higher wages, assuming the economy can continue to produce even modest job growth. (The next U.S. president, whoever he or she is, will no doubt claim credit for the benefits of demographic shifts forces over which they have no influence whatsoever.)

Here in Virginia, the public policy apparatus has not begun to think seriously about the implications of a stagnant workforce. “With shrinking workforces and lower unemployment rates, most rural areas will need to change their focus toward attracting workers rather than just keeping them,” says Lombard.

The same can be said of urban areas as well. If metropolitan areas want to grow, they, too, will need to change their focus to attracting workers. Fifteen years ago, urban geographer Richard Florida noted that corporate investment chased the workforce, especially what he termed the “creative class.” As the nation enters a no-growth phase for the workforce, that phenomenon should intensify. Virginia communities will need to re-think what constitutes economic development. Instead of using subsidies and tax breaks to lure corporate investment, communities should expend resources to create the amenities that lure young workers, especially skilled and educated members of the creative class. Attract the workforce, and the corporate investment will follow.

 — JAB