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Quite the World, Isn't It?

Michigan's baby bust

Stumbled across an intriguing article in the Detroit Free Press this morning - I'm in Detroit doing book research - about an unusual demographic twist. The birth rate in the state of Michigan has dropped precipitously.
Just 117,309 babies were born in Michigan in 2009, the smallest supply of newborn Michiganders since the end of World War II. That's 11.8 babies per 1,000 Michiganders, the lowest birthrate since the 1870s.

At its peak -- during the national baby boom -- Michigan's high was 27.6 new babies for every 1,000 residents.
This really is remarkable, especially the point writer Robin Erb makes in the piece that part of the cause is the exodus of young, child-bearing couples. This is how ghost towns are made, though Michigan doesn't risk that fate (can we have a ghost state?). But a baby bust is something of a canary in the coal mine - or the auto plant, in this case. When the young give up on a place, it makes it all the harder to keep the economy running and diversifying.

I've long told my newspaper colleagues that all journalists should come spend some time in Detroit, and in Michigan, to get a sense of what post-industrial society really looks like. The forces that led Detroit to this juncture are complex, and they pose massive challenges. So far, there has been little national political will to do something about it.

You know, that would make for an interesting book project ....
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