White deaths exceed births in 17 states, a new record

© Adam Fenster
In 2014, more white people died than were born in 17 American states, a new high, according to a new study. In 2004, four states had more white deaths than births. Researchers said the trend will likely continue given an aging white population in the US.

Non-Hispanic white deaths in states that represent 38 percent of the US population have surpassed white birth rates, according to new research by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

The states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The total population of these states is about 121 million.

"The fact that this was going on in states that contain such a substantial part of the U.S. population stunned even me," Kenneth Johnson, co-author of the study and a senior demographer and sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, told the Wall Street Journal. "We’re probably going to see it in several more states" in the years ahead, he added.

The main reasons for the population shift continue to be an aging white population and, more specifically, fewer white women of childbearing age, as well as lower fertility rates.

Minority population increases have offset the decrease in white births, the researchers said. Except for Maine and West Virginia, all 17 states are seeing more births than deaths overall when Latino and other populations are considered.

The study's figures do not include white residents who have moved from state to state or the arrival of white immigrants, according to researchers.

By the year 2050, white people are expected to make up less than half of the US population, according to US Census Bureau predictions, while Latinos are expected to reach 29 percent of the total US population by 2060.

"Much of this aging baby boom population is white, and so white mortality is growing," researchers wrote. "Together, growing white mortality and the diminishing number of white births increase the likelihood of more white natural decrease."

From 2000 to 2014, the amount of white women ages 15 to 44 decreased by 4.7 million, according to the study. The number of white births minus white deaths was 82,000 in 2014, a 79-percent fall from 393,000 in 1999.

Opioid addiction and a high suicide rate among middle-age whites has also played a part in the decline of white births, Johnson said. In addition, the Great Recession, which began in 2007, led to a decrease in the US fertility rate, which has not recovered since the economic downturn.