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Birth Rate Declines in 2013

National Fertility Chart 2013The number of births and the fertility rate in the United States declined between 2007 and 2013, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). “Births” represents a simple count of how many people were born in a given year. The fertility rate means births for each 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44.

The first chart at right shows the data. In 2013, there were 3,932,181 births in the USA, down 9% from their 2007 peak. The decline occurred among whites, blacks, and hispanics.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

The fertility rate declined 1% in 2013, to a record low of 62.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Since 2007, the rate has declined 10%, with the largest decline occurring among hispanics.

Births and the fertility rate are important environmental concerns because they greatly influence future world population. The more people there are in the world, and the higher their standard of living, the more environmental stress is created. A declining fertility rate may present economic and social challenges, but from an environmental perspective, it is good news.

Missouri Births 1990-2012 ChartBirths and fertility rates are also important from several other policy perspectives, such as health and welfare. The NCHS report shows that the fertility rate is declining among all age groups under 30 years old, but is increasing for age groups over 30. Thus, more older women are giving birth. In addition, the preterm birth rate declined in 2013, and has declined 10% since its peak in 2006 – a very important change for public health!

The number of births each year in Missouri has been cyclical since 1990, as shown in the second chart at right. Whether people choose to have children is often said to be related to the health of the economy, and that would seem to fit the pattern for Missouri.

2009 State Fertility ChartI found a table at the National Center for Health Statistics that showed fertility rate by state from 1990 – 2009. In 2009 Missouri’s fertility rate was 66.2 births per 1,000, 29th highest among the states (see third chart at right). Lowest in the country was Vermont, with a fertility rate of 50.8, and highest was Utah, with a fertility rate of 88.4.

Since 1990, Missouri’s fertility rate had declined by 2.65%, the 28th largest decline among the states (see fourth chart at right). California had a decline of 19.7%, the largest in the nation. Sixteen states had increased fertility rates, led by Wyoming, with an increase of 11.3%.

State Fertility Rates Change 1990-2009 ChartTime will tell whether the decline in fertility rate proves to be a long-term trend, or a temporary blip due to the Great Recession.


Martin, Joyce A., Brady E. Hamilton, and Michelle J.K. Osterman. 2014. Births in the United States, 2013. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Health Statistics. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db175.htm.

For the number of births in Missouri: Missouri Information for Community Assessment Data Portal, http://health.mo.gov/data/mica//BirthMCA.

For state fertility rate trends: National Center for Health Statistics. Birth, fertility, and total fertility rates: each State, 1990-2009. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/vitalstats/VitalStats_Births.htm.

Population Growth in Missouri’s Suburbs and Exurbs

STL Region Pop 1930-2000Historically, the population in urban areas has grown more quickly than in rural areas. (See previous post.) In the late 1800s and early 1900s, city centers grew most rapidly. Following World War II, however, the proliferation of automobiles led to the growth of suburbs, and for a while suburbs showed the most rapid growth. After 1980, however, even that began to change, as people moved ever farther from the city center, into what are now called exurbs.

Nowhere in the state do these trends align with county boundaries as well as in the St. Louis area. The graph at right shows the percentage population gain by decade for 6 counties in the St. Louis region. The dark blue line represents St. Louis City, the urban core. It grew most rapidly during the 1800s. By 1900, it’s growth rate had already slowed, and since 1950 it has lost population steadily. The green line represents St. Louis County, the suburbs; it grew strongly until about 1960, after which its rate of growth slowed. MO Pop Growth by County Map 1930-2000Jefferson County and St. Charles County, the red and purple lines, represent the transition between suburban and exurban areas; they show peaks in growth in 1960 and 1970, but the rate of growth lessens thereafter. Warren County and Lincoln County, the light blue and orange lines, represent the exurbs; they show the strongest growth in 1980 or later.

The Kansas City region has struggled with similar trends, where the rate of growth in Cass, Clay, and Platte Counties outstrips growth in Jackson County. Even in the Springfield region, the rate of growth of Green County is now outstripped by the rate of growth in Christian and Taney Counties.

At right are two maps. The first one shows Missouri population change by county from 1930 to 2000. The second one shows population change by county from 2000 to 2010. Counties with population loss have been colored lilac. Green means population gain, with light green being the least gain and dark green being the most gain. The maps show the trends discussed above. MO County Pop Growth 2010 MapIn addition, they show that population loss is not unique to urban city centers. Population loss has been persistent in the Missouri Bootheel and across large portions of Northern Missouri.


The data for the graph of historical population change in counties in the St. Louis Region were assembled from sources available at the website of the U.S. Census Bureau. County population statistics for 1900-1990 are available at County Population Census Counts 1900-1990, http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/cencounts/index.html.

For the 2000 census, population by county is available at Ranking Tables for Counties: Population in 2000 and Population Change from 1990 to 2000 (PHC-T-4), Census 2000, http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/briefs/phc-t4/index.html.

For the 2010 census, population by county is available by selecting “Estimates for All Counties,” on the Missouri QuickLinks page of the American FactFinder, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/29000lk.html.

The maps came from these two sources:

Percent Change in Population Density by County: 1930-2000, Population Density, Thematic Maps, Geography, http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/maps/thematic.html. (While population density is not the same as population, unless the counties are changing in size, changes in density and changes in population must be equivalent.)

Percent Change in Population by County: 2000 to 2010: Missouri, Population Change, Thematic Maps, Geography, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/maps/thematic.html.

Missouri Population Growth Lags the Nation

Missour vs US ChartI haven’t looked at population so far in this blog, and it is time I did. Population is among the most important environmental issues because humans have needs. We consume stuff to meet our needs, and when we do, we create waste. Sometimes it is the consumption itself that creates environmental stress, as when entire mountains are destroyed to mine coal. Other times, it is the waste that creates environmental stress, as when toxic chemicals resulting from industrial processes are dumped into rivers.

This allows us to understand a very simple, but very important principle: the total amount of environmental stress depends on how much stress each person creates and on how many people there are. You can express this as an equation:

Total environmental stress = per capita environmental stress x number of people.

MO Urban-Rural ChartIf the number of people increases, total environmental stress will increase (unless the amount of stress each person creates decreases).

Throughout history, the population of the world has increased, with only a few, brief interruptions. However, world statistics are not the focus of this blog, Missouri is. The first graph at right shows the total population of Missouri and of the United States from 1900-2010. Total Missouri population has grown from about 3.1 million in 1900 to almost 6.0 million in 2010, a 93% increase. Meanwhile, the population of the United States grew from 76.2 million in 1900 to 308.7 million in 2010, an increase of 305%.

Population has not grown equally in rural and urban areas. The second graph shows population in Missouri divided into its urban and rural components. The urban population grew from 1.1 million in 1900 to 4.2 million in 2010, a 281% increase. Meanwhile, rural population actually declined from 1.9 million in 1900 to 1.4 million in 1970, then grew to 1.8 million in 2010, a 5% loss overall.

US Urban-Rural ChartThe third graph at right shows similar data for the United States as a whole. The urban population grew from 30.2 million in 1900 to 249.3 million in 2010, an astounding increase of 725%. Meanwhile, the rural population grew from 46.0 million to 59.5 million, an increase of 29%.

Unlike some of the graphs we’ve looked at, these graphs do not show lots of variability. The trend goes up, and it is remarkably consistent across a large number of years.

Thus, since 1900, population in Missouri has grown at 1/3 the rate it has grown nationally. In addition, both in Missouri and nationally, urban population has grown much more than rural population. Where in 1900, the rural population was the majority, now it only makes up 30% of the population of Missouri, and 19% nationally. When Thomas Jefferson imagined the United States as an agrarian utopia, I wonder if he imagined a country where 81% of the people lived in urban areas?

More on what this urban-rural change means for Missouri’s environment in future posts.


The population data comes from 3 sources at the United States Census Bureau. I find their website to be the most difficult to use of all the websites I research. The problem is that the way they have measured population and published the data has changed over the years. Trying to find consistent data across all years can be maddening.

Urban and Rural Populations, United States, Regions, Divisions, and States: 1900-1990, Geography, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/geo/reference/urban-rural.html.

Table 29. Urban and Rural Population by State: 1990 and 2000, Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0029.pdf.

Percent Urban and Rural in 2010 by State, Lists of Population, Land Area, and Percent Urban and Rural in 2010, Geography, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/geo/reference/ua/urban-rural-2010.html.