A third of U.S. counties are considered dying or approaching death

Welch, West Virginia: A coal truck drives out of a town in a county that is considered to be dying. (AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock)
Welch, West Virginia: A coal truck drives out of a town in a county that is considered to be dying. (AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock)
Welch, West Virginia: A coal truck drives out of a town in a county that is considered to be dying.
(AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock)

According to new census estimates, a third of the counties are dying — both in population and economically.

As the base population ages and local economies weaken, many younger residents move to other areas to find work and start families.

In nearby West Virginia, deaths exceed births and the population decreases at an alarming rate.  Maine recently joined West Virginia as a place where more people die than enter life.

In Floyd County, the population has increased but the growth has slowed dramatically in recent years and more and more growth in the county comes from immigrants — some who have entered the U.S. illegally — and sought home in the area.

Nationwide, population growth has also slowed, growing by use three-fourths of one percent last year, the lowest levels since the post-depression years in the 1930s.

Kenneth Johnson, a “demographer” and sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, says many smaller, rural counties should worry.

“These counties are in a pretty steep downward spiral,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “The young people leave and the older adults stay in place and age.  Unless something dramatic changes — for instance, new development such as a meatpacking plant to attract young Hispanics — these areas are likely to have more and more natural decrease.  I expect natural decrease to remain high in the future.”

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