October 16, 2023

🍁 It's a feels-like-fall Monday.

☀️ Weather: Sunny with a high near 60°.

🎂 Happy belated birthday to our Axios Des Moines member Bruce Gast!

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 608 words — a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Falling birth rates

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios

Iowa's birth rate fell more than 16% from 2007 to 2022, from 13.63 births per 1,000 people to 11.41, according to new CDC data.

Why it matters: Birth rates can reflect greater prosperity or poverty.

Context: The nationwide birth rate declined 23% from 14.3 births per 1,000 people in 2007 to 11.1 last year.

  • The change in percent of Iowa's birth rate during that time declined less than all other states except North Dakota and Pennsylvania, which decreased 9.3% and 16.3% respectively.

The intrigue: The national birth rate was steadily declining year over year before the pandemic, except for a slight bump in 2014.

  • It dropped in 2020, remained flat in 2021 and even ticked up slightly in 2022.

Yes, but: The number of births nationwide increased slightly between 2021 and 2022, from 3.66 million to 3.67 million.

  • The overall population, however, fell from 333.3 million to 331.9 million, as fewer people combined with a relatively constant number of births results in a greater birth rate.
  • Ultimately, stabilization from the pandemic and the 2022 uptick in birth rates may only be a "short-term deviation from an ongoing trend of considerably greater importance," a Brookings Institution report states.

The bottom line: It'll take a few more years before the pandemic's impact on birth rates is fully understood.

  • Meanwhile, it seems likely the overall rate will resume its downward trend as post-pandemic normality continues to return.

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2. School board endorsements

Signs for Johnston school board candidates along Northwest Beaver Ave. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Prominent Evangelical advocacy group The Family Leader is endorsing four conservative candidates running for the Johnston school board.

Why it matters: Bob Vander Plaats, the group's leader, is known for endorsements in the Iowa caucuses as well as congressional races.

  • But this is the first time The Family Leader has endorsed in a local election — a signal towards the growing partisan politics on school boards.

State of play: The Family Leader announced its support last week for Johnston school board candidates Josh Nelson, Charles Steele, Lori Stiles and Michelle Veach, who are all running together for four open seats

  • The group plans to send 1,700 mailers out across Johnston to support the candidates.

What they're saying: The group's endorsement reads: "Your vote in a local school board election might be the most impactful vote you ever cast. School districts are small, and voter turnout is often extremely low. The margin between winning and losing is tight, which means your vote carries a lot of weight."

The other side: Johnston-area Democrats are promoting school board candidates Jason Arnold, Lya Williams and incumbents Jennifer Chamberland and Soneeta Mangra-Dutcher.

3. The Ear: Maize me another drink

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

🍸 Aquaman star and Iowa native Jason Momoa brings his Vodka Revolution tour to metro grocery stores today. (WOI-TV)

🗣 A DSM mayoral forum will be streamed online tonight starting at 6pm. You can also attend at Debra Heights Wesleyan Church.

💰 Iowa approved nearly 19,000 vouchers worth $7,635 each for K-12 students to attend private schools this year. There were 3,179 in Polk County. (Iowa Public Radio).

🛶 ICON started a conservation fund to ramp up central Iowa's water quality improvement projects in coming years. (Business Record)

🚨 An Iowa DNR officer was fired after she allegedly called an Ankeny police officer "Officer Hot Stuff" and asked if he liked older women. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

4. 1 fun thing to go: Redesign this flag

Photo: Courtesy of the city of Urbandale

Urbandale City Council votes tomorrow on whether to revamp its municipal flag.

  • If approved, ideas and designs will be accepted through January and unveiled at next year's Mayor's State of the City Address.

✝️ Our thought bubble: Pope it up.

🥴 Jason wants to try the Jason Mimosa.

🦀 Linh wants to try this new Mexican seafood restaurant in Des Moines.

Today's newsletter was edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Lucia Maher.