Babies making up less of the region’s population growth

Population is getting older

More than 50% of the region’s growth since the 1960s has come from people relocating here.

But migration is only part of the population story. Births and deaths also change how many people live in the region.

While the number of people moving here fluctuates wildly with economic highs and lows, birth and death rates are much more stable.

Migration brought 42,000 newcomers to the region in the period from spring 2019 to spring 2020.

At the same time, natural increase (births minus deaths) added 18,700 people. That’s the lowest it’s been since 1980.

By comparison, natural increase added between 20,000 and 26,000 new residents a year during the 2000s and 2010s.

What gives? Falling birth rates, and they’re having an impact.

For some perspective, birth rates fell precipitously during the 1960s and early 1970s as women entered the labor force in large numbers. Around the time of the "Will the Last Person Leaving Seattle Turn out the Lights" sign), the birth rate had dropped from 22.8 to 13.05 per 1,000 people.

After regaining ground during the 1980s, birth rates experienced a slow decline over the last three decades. Now the birth rate is just 11.19 per 1,000.

Death rates ticked up slightly in the last decade because the region’s population is getting older overall.

The central Puget Sound region isn’t the only place seeing lower birth rates; the CDC reports that fertility rates are dropping nationwide.

The baby boom expected to come out of the COVID pandemic looks more like it’s going to be a baby bust. The Brookings Institute predicts U.S. fertility will go down by 300,000 or more births due to COVID, as people re-think or defer adding to their families.

For more about the components of population change in the region, see the latest Puget Sound Trend on this topic.

New population estimates covering April 2020-April 2021 are expected to be released by the Office of Financial Management this summer. We look forward to reporting on how population trends change due to the pandemic.