Oct 10, 2023 - News

North Carolina's falling fertility rate could shape the state's future

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

While North Carolina's population has surged, the state's fertility rates have moved in the opposite direction.

Why it matters: A falling fertility rate will have a strong influence on the shape of North Carolina's demographics and economy in the coming decades.

  • The state's total fertility rate is now below replacement level — meaning that without new people moving here, the state's population would decline over the long term, Nathan T. Dollar, director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill, told Axios.

By the numbers: Since 2007, the number of births per 1,000 residents has fallen from 14.4 births to 11.4 births.

State of play: Dollar said that falling birth rates are making North Carolina an older state, with the median age of 38.9 years the highest it's ever been.

  • Without an influx of new residents to the state from other places, Dollar said, North Carolina's labor force is likely to shrink in the coming decades.
  • That could mean that there will be fewer health care workers, for example, to care for an aging population.

Yes, but: The birth rate in North Carolina has rebounded from a pandemic low — a factor that Dollar attributes to a strong in-migration of women in their prime childbearing years.

  • However, it's unlikely that the increase in births will continue, he said.

What they're saying: "It remains to be seen, but I don't think that we're in the middle of a baby boom or anything like that, and fertility rates are gonna skyrocket and continue to increase," Dollar said. "I don't foresee that happening."


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