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Birthrate declines on Long Island, business group says

A couple pushes a baby stroller in Eisenhower

A couple pushes a baby stroller in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on Sep. 24, 2017. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Fewer babies are being born on Long Island, driving a slowdown in population growth for more than a decade, according to a new analysis of government data to be issued Wednesday.

The Long Island Association’s study says the total number of births decreased by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2016. Nassau and Suffolk counties registered a sharper decline in women’s general fertility rates than the state and the nation did, says the report by the association, a regional nonprofit representing businesses.

The decline has put the total fertility rate of Long Island at 1.8 births per woman in her lifetime, below what demographers consider a natural replacement level of 2.08 children. The region slid below that threshold since a recession hit in 2008, the report says.

It’s a situation that should concern policymakers, as decreased births affect economic prospects, leaving fewer students and future workers and taxpayers in the population pipeline, said Kevin S. Law, the association’s president and chief executive officer.

“Having a child is a very personal decision . . . but what we need to look at as a region is, well, are there other things that might be impacting the amount of births and the birthrate?” Law said.

“Long Island is a very expensive place to live,” he added.

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Key factors to keep the region viable for younger residents who may start families and feed workforce needs are increasing the diversity of the housing supply, offering more affordable child care, sprucing up downtowns, and maintaining and expanding public transportation, Law said.

Shanequa Levin, director of Every Child Matters, a Jericho-based nonprofit, agreed that many women and families “are having to make such crucial decisions” about whether to settle here and have a family, weighing the cost of living and raising children.

“The people that live and work on Long Island aren’t able to even be able to afford to stay here, so I could see that decreasing the opportunity to want to start family on Long Island, when places like Georgia and North Carolina are calling to you . . . where you can have these big houses and nice neighborhoods” and still be able to afford to send children to after-school programs, Levin said.

The association’s analysis combined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau and the health and labor departments in New York State.

Overall, Long Island women gave birth to 29,888 children in 2016, down 19.7 percent from 37,226 children in 2000. The trend has reduced the natural increase in the population, seen as the balance between births and deaths.

The number of births per 1,000 women on Long Island fell to 57.7 births in 2016, compared with 58.6 births per 1,000 women in New York and 62 births per 1,000 women in the United States.

Long Island’s decline comes as the national birthrate is “as low as it’s been ever” as measured by 2016 figures, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a research nonprofit in Washington. “Women are putting off having kids,” Frey said, as they pursue studies and career advancement but also as “a consequence of millennials and the Great Recession, because they are still waiting to put their lives back in order” from the economic downturn.

Lawrence Levy, Hofstra’s executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies, said Long Island needed to adapt.

“You want a region that is attractive to people of all age cohorts,” Levy said. “We are doing more to keep the elderly happy with everything from capping property taxes to building more over-55 communities. We are not quite doing enough yet on a broad scale to create the kind of communities and amenities that attract young people.”

Young men and women already here need reasons to stay, said Jeff Guillot, founding partner of RecruitLI, a nonprofit in Huntington that seeks to educate those residents to work in the region’s industries.

Having a declining birthrate “is not a positive harbinger for future economic development,” Guillot said, but government and industry need to make better efforts to train and recruit the workforce that could bring growth to the region. “A lot of people are happy to pay property taxes if they know they are getting something in return and they have the amenities.”

Highlights from report

Long Island population

2000: 2,753,913

2016: 2,854,083

Long Island births

2000: 37,226

2016: 29,888, down 19.7 percent

Long Island’s natural increase (births over deaths)

2002-2006: 64,778

2007-2011: 48,902

2012-2016: 23,578

2016 fertility rates (births per 1,000 women)

Long Island: 57.7, down 11 percent from 2000

New York State: 58.6, down 4.4 percent

United States: 62, down 5.9 percent

Source: Long Island Association Research Institute

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