Minnesota is in a demographic death spiral

They say “demography is destiny.” For Minnesota’s sake, let’s hope not.

A headline about public education caught my eye the other day. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that:

Minneapolis Public Schools projects ‘impending fiscal crisis’ within 5 years

Mostly the article is about how federal COVID money will run out in the next few years. But this quote from paragraph 15 hints at deeper troubles,

Minneapolis schools enroll about 28,000 students — down 17% over the past five years. The district projects that enrollment decline to continue, serving 23,000 students by the 2027-2028 school year.

Some of the decline is due, no doubt, to the district’s poor performance. But much of it reflects demographic realities in the state. Today’s newborns are the kindergarteners of five years hence. And there are fewer Minnesota newborns every year.

Over the decades, the number of births has waxed and waned, based on trends. The number maxed out at 87,000 during the baby boom year of 1960. It’s gone up and down as Generation X, Millennials, and Zoomers have cycled through.

As recently as 2007, the number of babies born in Minnesota topped 73,000. So, we will soon have roughly 10,000 fewer children entering the school demographic every year as leaving it. The babies born in 2020 will enter kindergarten in 2025 (give or take). That will represent about 5,000 fewer children entering schools, statewide, than entered this year, reducing the need for about 250 kindergarten teachers that year.

The process will repeat in 2026 for 1st grade teachers and so on.

As you can see above, as the number of births decline, the number of deaths has been increasing. The number was up almost 7,000 in the COVID year of 2020, although state officials attribute only 5,000 deaths to that cause.

The birth rate continues to fall, year after year, and is now at the lowest level recorded in state history. Even before COVID, the death rate had been increasing, year after year, since 2009. Here is the above data in graph form,

As you can extrapolate for yourself, the lines will cross later this decade, if they haven’t already. The “natural rate of increase” will become negative in Minnesota.

In 2019, pre-COVID, five states saw annual deaths exceed births: West Virginia and the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In calendar year 2020, due to Covid, deaths exceeded births in 20 U.S. states.

Looking at the 12-month period from July 2020 to June 2021, the number increased to 25 states.

Across America, the nation’s birth rate fell by 4.4 percent from 2020 to 2021. In Minnesota, the birth rate fell by 5.2 percent.

Over that period, the nation’s death rate increased by 11.8 percent. In Minnesota, the death rate increased by 14.3 percent.

As my colleague John Phelan has pointed out, Minnesota loses more migrants to other states than it gains, on net. That leaves only international immigration to close the gap.

And that seems to be the idea. The official state demographer last produced a population projection in October 2020, noting,

Minnesota’s population growth has historically relied heavily on high rates of international migrants.

P. 12.

The demographer later added,

Further reductions in the rate or number of international migrants coming to Minnesota could cause a net loss of total population.

P. 30.