"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Baby bust, and vice-versa

Everyone talks about outmigration. Like the weather, no one ever does anything about it.

Almost no one, however, is talking about the other demographic trend that has huge implications: natural population decline.

"Natural" population change is the sum of births in a given population, minus the number of deaths, during a given period of time. The following chart shows the number of births and deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador, as measured quarterly, since the quarter beginning July 1961.

Even in the 1960s, the province was a net population loser through interprovincial out-migration — moving away is nothing new by any stretch. There were only two quarters in the entire decade in which there was net in-migration. During the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the only protracted periods of net in-migration, and even these were short, have co-incided with economic downturns that have made it less attractive to leave, or more attractive to stay or go back home.

Yet the provincial population continued to grow, quarter after quarter, until 1979. That was the year of the first quarterly decline. There were other, sporadic quarters of population loss, and a particularly bad episode from mid-1985 until the end of 1986, but there were roughly as many quarters of gain as of loss until April 1993.

Of the 56 quarters since April 1993, only two have registered population increases. It's been almost downhill the whole way.

Since 1961, a net 156,000 people have left the province. (In fact, the total number who have left is over 554,000, offset by just under 400,000 who have moved in. And it should be made clear that these are not individual people, but individual movements of people; a person who moved away in 1973, moved back in 1979, moved away again in 1983, back in 1986, away in 1992, and back in 1999, would be counted each time.)

But net outmigration was largely offset for decades by a high rate of natural increase as shown in the chart: many, many, many more people being born than dying. Again, until April 1993, there were never more than two consecutive quarters in which the natural population increase failed to compensate for the out-migration loss.

Since April 1993, there have only been three where net out-migration has been offset by a surplus of births.

In the first quarter of 2003, the province registered its first quarterly natural decline, more deaths than births. In the 17 quarters since, there have been seven more such quarters. The first half of 2006 saw the first back-to-back quarters of natural decrease. And with the latest figures, four of the last five quarters have seen more births than deaths.

The implications are big, for virtually every aspect of public policy and the economy.

They are huge.

Everyone's talking about out-migration. And, even though the two demographic phenomena are linked in many ways, no one's talking about this.


At 1:45 PM, June 29, 2007 , Blogger dbp said...

I think you've got a couple of typos in the fourth last paragraph. You refer to natural decline but say there were more births than deaths. Otherwise, great post on the demographic elephant in the room.

At 6:07 PM, June 29, 2007 , Blogger WJM said...

Good eye! You're hired!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home