Man, this blog is starting to suck. The City Beat can’t seem to find the time to update it without neglecting my real job, which is writing stories for the paper. I’m just saying that so you don’t have to, but feel free.
So, let’s recap on some of the stuff I should’ve blogged about, starting with that story about the babies with the frighteningly large face of a baby on the cover.
My only assignment was to check out the number of babies born at Altru Health System, but that didn’t make for a very entertaining story, so I went all nerd and decided to bring in more data to flesh out the story. My inspiration was something Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown had said back in 2004 when he set a goal of increasing the city population to 58,000 by about this time.
(Here’s a special treat: The spreadsheet I worked off of to get most of the numbers below.)
The question is how many babies had to be born for us to meet that goal?
The population change formula is very simple: (Births + In-migration) – (Deaths + Out-migration) = Population change. If births and in-migration outpace deaths and out-migration, then the population will grow. If not, it shrinks.
Karen Olson, the helpful staff member from the State Data Center at NDSU, clued me in to this formula, which reminded me of the mayor’s goal. Just to cut to the chase, I don’t think we’ll meet the goal, though the city population estimate isn’t out yet. As of last year, we had about 55,700 residents, according to the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Getting 2,300 new residents in a year would be unusual given population trends of the past and given that we had fewer babies born — about 702 last year compared to 776 the year before — and the Air Force base population is downsizing.
But I chose not to focus too much on the city because I don’t have all the data at that level. Births and deaths are available through the state, but only the Census releases migration data, using IRS records, and only at the county level.
Compiling the data for the years 2000 to 2008 and averaging them out, I found that, without births, Grand Forks County lost 777 residents a year. So to stay even with the year before, there’d have to be about 777 new babies each year. Countywide, we had 914 babies, so were ahead a little more than 100.
The migration data for 2009 isn’t in yet and the average might have changed a bit.
Compared to other big counties in the state, Grand Forks is better off than Ward County, but not so good as Cass and Burleigh counties.
Even though Ward County was extraordinarily productive — about 1,027 births last year — the number of deaths and outmigration — averaging 1,236 — meant that probably wasn’t enough to stem the population decline.
Burleigh and Cass counties had such high inmigration that even without births, they would’ve grown. Burleigh gained an average of 237 residents and Cass 256 a year. They were productive, too, with about 1,073 births in 2009 for Burleigh and 2,179 for Cass.
An interesting, though probably meaningless statistic as far as Grand Forks is concerned, is the fertility rate, which the Census defines as the number of births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, which is 15 to 44.
For Grand Forks County, the average is 56.4. Ward is a whopping 78.5. Burleigh is 60. And Cass is 59.9.
Because of UND’s presence, Grand Forks County’s population of younger women is exaggerated and, as state demographer Richard Rathge pointed out, college women tend to hold off on starting families while in school. It’s true that other counties have universities, too, but I believe ours is a bigger proportion of the county population.
Last Fall, UND had on-campus enrollment of 11,207 and, if we assume that half of that number are women, that’s 5,604 women of child-bearing age who won’t be bearing. Removing that population from the child-bearing population, we get an average fertility rate of 86.8.
If I do the same by taking NDSU out of the equation for Cass County, I get 76.6. (Yeah! We’re more fertile!)
Taking Minot State University out of Ward County gives me 87.5.
Taking Bismarck State College out of Burleigh County gives me 65.5.
Well, that’s kind of the quick and dirty estimate anyway. No doubt there are those living in Grand Forks County who attend Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks or even the University of Minnesota-Crookston. Cass County women might attend Concordia College or Minnesota State University Moorhead.
As Mayor Brown noted, having more people means more federal funding, though it’s more accurate to say it means more chances of getting more federal funding since the population also has to meet other criteria to qualify a city for more aid. For example, head start funding for schools depend on the number of kids in head start, not just the total number of kids.
More importantly, it decreases the impact of the aging population. Most people would agree that an economy is most vibrant when the population is diverse. Too many retired folks and it means you don’t have as many young workers available for industry. Too many kids and it means you have more kids in school and not enough workers earning money to pay for those schools. I don’t know if there’s an economic impact to having too many young workers, but that’s not a problem we’re likely to face!