The Ten States Running Out Of Children

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The portion of the U.S. population that is under 15 years of age has dropped slightly during the last decade, and the ripple effect of this already has repercussions on the economy. While the resources that children need are different than those of adults, for governments they are not less expensive. Most government expenses have to do with education. However, the recession has added other costs: The costs of food and other programs such as Food Stamps, or the cost of housing as the inventories of foreclosed homes and the number of adults chronically unemployed rises. The challenges vary considerably from state to state because in some the percentage of the population under 15 has fallen sharply.

The problems of the young are are not discussed much as the focus of the press and Washington policy has been on those people who are elderly now and the generation of Baby Boomers who are just behind them. The federal debt and increases in the deficit have put the retirement support of these people at risk. The credit crisis and state and municipal deficits have spawned an austerity movement that is unprecedented in U.S. history.

Children and young teenagers are, in many cases, the grandchildren of the older Baby Boomers or of the men and women who were very young at the time of the Korean War — people who are or will be in most need of the social safety nets provided by the government. The gulf between the needs of the aged and children highlights the pressure on young and middle aged adults to provide the tax revenue to support these dependent demographic groups. Unemployment among people between 18 and 24 tends to be high compared to the national average, so the tax burden to cover services rests with an even smaller percentage of the American population.

Another result of a drop in the percentage of the population that is under 15 is that this group will offer only modest competition to Americans who are 50 and older for jobs in a decade. A Nielsen survey done earlier this year showed that 22% of Americans and Canadians expect to work past the age of 70. A more recent Gallup poll reported that “More Americans are worried about not having enough money for retirement (66%) than are worried about seven other financial matters.” The lower the number of people who are younger than 15 now, the easier it should be for the aged to find jobs. It may be that 70 is the new 50. This may not be true physically, but psychologically it is. The large Pew research study on aging done two years ago reported that 62% of Americans do not think they are old until they are 75. Twenty-seven percent put that age at 85.

Some noteworthy information from the Census data used as the backbone of the study is that the percentage of the population in the U.S. that is under 15 has dropped about 6% in the period from 2001 to 2009, the year for which the last complete census is available. In Alaska, the state with the largest drop, the fall off was over 15%.  Median age across the country rose slightly, as should be expected if the youngest part of the population has dropped a modest amount.

Some states are experiencing particularly sharp drops in the percent of the population under 15. Experts maintain this is attributable to the decline in local economies. William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a demography expert, observed that most states have increasingly high numbers of older residents. “This is because many states in the middle of the country have experienced a long term economic slide – losing young adult migrants, and not attracting many immigrants.”

Economies with low numbers of children also face further economic burdens.  “States losing young people will be stuck with older people who will be in need of health, and medical services while their labor force growth tapers off,” Frey says. “The challenge will be to balance the needs of younger people in places where they are growing with those of baby boomers and seniors who will be aging everywhere.”

According to Frey, the consequences go beyond economics. “In the longer term, the country may be ‘splitting apart’ between a more youthful, racially diverse set of Sunbelt states, and a more stagnant, aging set of northern and Midwest states- a division which will impact the politics and economies of each.”

24/7 Wall St. has reviewed information on the ten states that had the largest drop in the percent of their population who were under 15 between 2001 and 2009. Two characteristics were dominant in the statistics. The first is that many of those are states which have been financially troubled like New York, California, Louisiana, and Rhode Island. It is an educated guess, but families may want to move to regions that hold more economic promise for their children. The second is that Alaska and Hawaii are both on the list. This is unexpected. The economic opportunity in those states should be good. Both states, however, are relatively expensive places to live, and the economic downturn may make them less attractive places to raise children. One piece of data not provided by the Census is probably also critical. The Child Trends Center at The University of Albany said in a 2007 study that immigrant children account for 20 percent of all children in the U.S., and that their numbers are growing faster than any other group of children in the nation.  States 24/7 Wall St. picked for this list, which includes Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Michigan, are not a large part of this trend.

States are ranked by the change in the portion of their populations that are under 15 years old.

These Are the 24/7 Wall St. Ten States That Are Running Out of Children.