A closer look at births in South Dakota

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Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — A study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicated that South Dakota is one of six states with an increasing birthrate.

“This is exciting news in an era when the average age of the population is projected to increase rapidly over the coming decades,” said Leacey E. Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist.

According to data found within the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) regions, nearly half the births in 2012 took place in the East Central NASS region of South Dakota which consists of Brookings, Davison, Hanson, Kingsbury, Lake, McCook, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody and Sanborn Counties (Please note this data shows us where the births took place and not necessarily where the family and infant reside).

The South West NASS region is home to the second largest group of births in 2012, which includes Bennett, Custer, Fall River, Haakon, Jackson, Pennington, Shannon, and Stanley Counties. “These 18 counties host 49.6 percent of the population of South Dakota and account for 67.5 percent of the births in the state.

Brown explained that two other NASS regions in the state showed a striking difference between the percentage of the population housed in the area and the number of births that took place. “One out of every four people reside in the North West and the South East NASS regions, yet only one out of every 10 births took place in either of those regions,” Brown said.

Counties in those regions include: Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Clay, Corson, Dewey, Douglas, Harding, Hutchinson, Lawrence, Lincoln, Meade, Perkins, Turner, Union, Yankton and Ziebach.

Brown said organizing the birth and population data by NASS regions provides valuable insight about the demographics of South Dakota. “There is considerable variation within each region. For example, the South West NASS region is home to the county with the oldest median age (Custer: 52.5) and one of the youngest (Shannon: 24.7),” she said.

Aging continues in rural areas

Even though the data presented here is just a snapshot in time, Brown said the demographic trends suggest the population in rural South Dakota will continue to age. “As this trend continues, the number of children born in rural communities is not likely to increase without community level intervention to retain and attract people,” she said.

Brown said that while younger people are an essential part of rural vitality, the relative number of younger people available across the United States is projected to be smaller as the percentage of the population over age 65 increases. “With every rural community in America vying for younger people, it is essential for rural communities to develop innovative ways to retain and attract younger people,” Brown said. “What is more, adults over the age of 65 provide valuable human capital to rural communities in the form of consumers, business owners, community leaders, mentors and caregivers for children and adults with disabilities.”

She said that as a state, South Dakota is at a pivotal moment in history. “The Baby Boom generation will likely be healthy and active for the next two decades, possibly longer depending on medical advancements that take place. After that time, they may need additional assistance,” she said. “Some rural communities may find it difficult to keep Baby Boomers who develop disabilities in their own homes without services such as home health, home maker, respite or meal delivery.”

These services, Brown explained cannot be offered without frontline health professionals, including: nurses, certified nursing assistants, physicians, physician’s assistants, physical therapists and etcetera. “In addition, volunteers are often relied upon for programs such as Meals-on-wheels or Senior Companions,” she said.

In order for rural communities to be prepared to provide services to an increased population of adults with disabilities, Brown said they need to evaluate the assets which currently exist in their community. “From there, we can determine what, if any, features need to be developed within the community to help them attract and retain the teachers, business leaders, health care providers, community leaders and volunteers necessary to maintain the vibrancy of rural South Dakota,” Brown said.

To learn more, visit iGrow.org.