Do you live in a county that's dying?

If you're in a far-off suburb more than 45 minutes from a major city, there's a strong chance your area is losing population.

By Jason Notte Mar 15, 2013 11:39AM
A disused cafe in a ghost town off Highway I40 in Arizona on September 3, 2008 (© Nina Raingold/Getty Images)Step outside your house or apartment and look around. Do you see more people moving out than unpacking or more folks being buried than born? If so, you're living in one of America's many counties that are dying off.

New estimates from the 2012 census released Thursday and reported by The Associated Press found the American population is shifting as local economies weaken and their populations age. The numbers show show that 1,135 of the nation's 3,143 counties are going through "natural decrease," where deaths exceed births. That's up from roughly 880 U.S. counties, or 1 in 4, in 2009. 

So, how can you tell if you're in one of these dying counties? Well, if your home is in a far-flung suburb 45 minutes to an hour from a major city, there's a strong chance your town has watched a 2.1% boom in 2006 turn into a 0.35% decline last year.

Or if you measure your land in plantable acres, calculate your commute in how long it takes you to pick up hay, and count the days by keeping track of your monthly recycling pickup. You may be among the 46% of rural counties that experienced a natural decrease. By comparison, only 17% of urban counties went through the same.

Population decline has been also been happening in Japan and several European nations for some time now, and it would be a whole lot worse in places like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis if it weren't for the influx of young immigrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia. While many of America's shriveling counties are in the Midwest and Northeast, rural and exurban areas outside major cities and even cities in the South and West hit hard by the housing bust are seeing declines.

All of these areas have counties that are among the poorest in America, with some in South Dakota flirting with a 50% poverty rate. In the last year, Maine joined West Virginia as the only two entire states where deaths exceed births. But across the country, the birthrate has tanked since the recession. The U.S. population grew by just 0.75% last year, marking a low since 1937.

Regionally, growth in the Northeast slowed last year to 0.3%, the lowest since 2007. In the Midwest, growth dipped to 0.25%, the lowest in at least a decade. The story was only slightly better in the South and West, where growth rates rose 1.1% and 1.04%, respectively.

On the flip side, more than 70 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are steadily increasing the mortality rate. On the whole, the populations of non-metropolitan areas last year declined by 0.1%, compared to 1% growth in large metro areas and 0.7% growth smaller metros.

Of course, if you enjoy solitude, a county that's emptying out is just fine.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 17, 2013 1:29AM

Seems many rural Counties have run out of money, along with Metropolitan ares...


No work, no viable jobs at business locations in small towns, people losing homes and land to foreclosures...Moving away closer to better jobs or looking for work..??


With some of these populations in decline in distant locations...How will it get better ??

Many places are the older folks, hanging on to a homestead with Soc.Sec and a vegetable stand.

And  some boomers, that just want to live peacefully..

Mar 16, 2013 10:55AM
And by the way its about time we get our solitude back which I enjoyed and miss!!!
Mar 17, 2013 8:31AM
My family has lived in this county since 1835, and I am doing just fine. I had a chance to move in 1988, but declined, and have never regretted it! there's more to a community than the level of population inflow or outflow!
Mar 15, 2013 3:31PM

Let's start here in Alabama.  These counties are dying - and rapidly:  Greene, Winston, and Wilcox.  Wilcox is the most disturbing, as most parts of that county seems to be lost in limbo since the Civil Rights era.  Marengo is growing rapidly, particularly in Demopolis in the northern sector, thanks to commercial and recreational river traffic and the four-laning of US Highway 80.  My home, Sumter, is fast becoming a bedroom community for Meridian, Mississippi and from Demopolis, but we are saved from imminent doom because, we have lots of students from those areas attending the University of West Alabama in Livingston. 


The big interest is Hale County, which is rally rural.  The northernmost town, Moundville, has grown tremendously, since it lies 12 miles south of Tuscaloosa and it crosses the Hale-Tuscaloosa county line.  Galion, in the south, lies 3-4 miles east of Demopolis on the Marengo-Hale county line, and has seen a boom in housing over the past 2 years.  Several Moundville residents last year have filed petitions with the state to annex all of Moundville into Tuscaloosa County, and now I'm hearing Galion's residents want to be brought into Marengo.. If this is allowed to happen, then Hale County could be in serious trouble.

Mar 16, 2013 10:48PM
County thats dying? Not hardly, its been dead for years. Now I live in a country thats dying. Its being taken over by ****, atheists, crooked politicians and the Devil. Yes, I said the Devil. He is very real and he is alive and well on planet Earth whether you want to believe it or not.
Mar 17, 2013 7:31AM
it sounds like the people invading our major cities are illegals living below the poverty level, causing more downturn in civil society, and a plague of slums. WHY have we let the USA become INVADED when we already have too many people ?
Mar 16, 2013 10:52AM

Don't write stupid Articles like this to worry People!!! Is it a slow News Day!

It's about time this happened! We have became so Over Populated ,its not even funny!!!


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