Day By Day

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Implications of Change

A couple of potentially big stories broke in the past few days.

First, from the Wall Street Journal:

Migration around the U.S. slowed to a crawl last year, especially for this decade's boom towns, as a weak housing market and job insecurity forced many Americans to stay put.

Demographers say the dropoff in migration, shown in Census data to be released Thursday, is among the sharpest since the Great Depression. It marks the end of what Brookings Institution demographer William Frey calls a "migration bubble."

As asset values rose fairly steadily in the past decade, Americans young and old moved around the country in search of jobs or better weather. In many cases, people living in higher-cost housing markets such as San Francisco and New York cashed in their real-estate winnings and moved to outlying counties, or to states like Florida and Nevada, hoping to find a cheaper house and pocket the difference. Now, "people are hanging tight; they're too scared to do anything," said Mr. Frey.

Read it here.

The second major story was noted in the New York Times.

More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than in any other year in American history, according to preliminary data reported Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The 4,317,000 births in 2007 just edged out the figure for 1957, at the height of the baby boom. The increase reflected a slight rise in childbearing by women of all ages, including those in their 30s and 40s, and a record share of births to unmarried women.

But in contrast with the culturally transforming postwar boom, when a smaller population of women bore an average of three or four children, the recent increase mainly reflects a larger population of women of childbearing age, said Stephanie J. Ventura, chief of reproductive statistics at the center and an author of the new report. Today, the average woman has 2.1 children.

Also in 2007, for the second straight year and in a trend health officials find worrisome, the rate of births to teenagers rose slightly after declining by one-third from 1991 to 2005.
Read it here.

They say that "demography is destiny" and there is a great amount of truth in the saying. Significant changes in the rates of migration [including immigration] and fertility can have a dramatic effect on the American society and its institutions. In designing, funding, and staffing our institutions we build in certain assumptions, the most important of which is that current trends will continue into the indefinite future. It's too early yet to say whether any of these observed changes represent new tends, but they should warn us that the plans we are currently making are based on future projections that might well be inaccurate.

This is something to keep an eye on.