ND Births By County, 2011-16

For those that question the impact of the oil boom, I offer up this post on birth rates. Now the answers are not quite as obvious as you might expect. It is probably important that you recall my earlier post about the net migration by county for North Dakota (found here). The beginning year for our look at birth rates is 2011 where we see the leaders in birth rates are counties with sizable Native American populations. There is, as yet, no boom in the Bakken area, and there is a remarkable degree of consistency as far as rates across the state.

Now we advance one year and we see, at best, moderate changes in 2012. The Bakken region starts to show a bit of an increase, though it is still not a standout as far as birth rate is concerned. The four state metropolitan areas are still in the upper ranges for birth rates too.

The year 2013 is when the western part of the state really starts to see the impact of the oil boom on demographic rates such as births. The lighter green color indicates higher rates per 1,000 people and there is a larger expanse enjoying this increase.

By 2014 the birth rates were significantly higher in the west that the rest of the state and this is when we really saw some significant infrastructure spending and planning such as school upgrades. The west clearly became a demographic leader in this year as the Bakken area and surrounding counties were edging higher in birth rates.

It is interesting to note that throughout this entire time, while the west saw increasing birth rates one county remained at the highest level, and that was Sioux county. In 2015 the west edged even closer and the region as a whole was clearly the birth rate leader in the state.

Now we get to 2016 and the really interesting part is that birth rates are down a bit (compare the values in the legends), but the west is still the lead region even after oil peaked and started its decline. The oil peak happened in late 2014, early 2015 but we as yet do not see it coming through in this map.

Thinking back and combining the information from the last two demographics posts it is entirely possible to have negative net migration and increased births if the timing of the events differs. I am a big believer that demographics is a significant driver of economics, so we want to make sure we get this story right; there are actual dollars and cents decisions at stake.

The issues here also present a significant issue for the age structure in the state. The influx of people during the oil boom were largely younger workers. That combined with an increase in births presents an opportunity for the state to get younger, instead of being one of the faster graying states in the country. Such a reversal, particularly if only temporary, creates significant issues for cities and counties to confront regarding infrastructure, service provision, and taxation.

The trends on display in these graphs need to be followed over more time to determine their exact course and we need to project out the population and age structure for the state under a variety of alternative scenarios to get a sense of what we face going forward. My initial calculations show a pretty wide range that I confess would be of little assistance to policy makers right now. Ranges are simply too broad and rates too variable. I’m still working at it though so hopefully it will not be long for me to refine those estimates.


  • Kathy Davison

    The 2016 map shows up for me as about a 1/4 by 1/2 inch speck and won’t change. The other maps are good.

    A very interesting article; I greatly appreciate your site- light without heat.

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