Population projection: Utah has babies and Iowa doesn’t

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeptember 28, 2015: Clayton, Iowa, along the Mississippi River, has no children living in city limits, according to census numbers — adding the atmosphere of a micro-version of “Children of Men” to this photo of a playground there. Buck Grove, near Denison, has the same problem — a playground with no children to enjoy it.

Utah is virtually guaranteed to pass Iowa in population in the 2020 census, based on a recent estimate that the former gained nearly four times the population of the latter in fiscal 2016. I noticed this possibility when the numbers were released last year, and there’s no sign of either trend changing. In fact, the switch could happen in the fiscal 2017 estimates released at the end of 2018.

To inadvertently hammer the point home, there’s something from each state’s largest newspaper from December that encapsulate what’s going on:

Utah has the nation’s third fastest growth rate. Why? Babies. Lots of babies. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Childless Iowa: More communities left with few, if any, kids (Des Moines Register)

In one of my last columns for the Iowa State Daily, in 2004, I wrote:

In the next 10 to 20 years, the personal support infrastructure that built small-town Iowa is going to collapse. One day, someone is going to die, no one who coordinated funeral potlucks for the past 25 years will be able to help, and there won’t be any younger people to take their place.

On the one hand, I might have been aggressive on that estimate. On the other hand, the Marathon to Marathon — an example of the type of thing that relies on a solid group of volunteers — ended 13 years later.

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