Not the kinds with real ghosts in them (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) but places that used to be bustling communities that are now almost empty. In an increasing number of American communities, more residents are dying than being born, resulting in a natural population decrease that has been particularly acute in rural areas.

Demographer Kenneth Johnson says, "Last year, 24% of all US counties experienced natural decrease." This occurs when more deaths than births occur in an area in a given year. It is caused by two factors: out-migration of young adults from communities and growing older populations who remain in communities, and decreases in fertility levels. In one state, West Virginia, deaths exceed births for the first time in US history. Johnson says, "Many agricultural counties have sustained decades of outmigration by young adults (usually in order to get jobs), leaving behind fewer young families of childbearing age. Natural decrease also is observed in many rural counties classified as retirement destinations by the US Department of Agriculture."

This has implications that reach far beyond demography to institutions that are the bedrock of communities. For instance, "The viability of local schools becomes precarious as the student and parent populations diminish. With fewer births and children, the delivery of obstetric and pediatric services by local hospitals and physicians also becomes increasingly problematic–leaving the few remaining prospective parents to travel to distant hospitals and physicians for prenatal and well-baby care that reduces the risks to vulnerable mothers and children. The provision of daycare and family services is also difficult when families with children are few and scattered. And, the needs of families and children may get less attention in the political arena than those of the growing senior population."

As we drive from one major city to another these days, we pass these ghost towns, filled with empty stores and empty houses, with the wind whistling down the empty streets. This is happening in all parts of the world, including places like China.

There can be ghost towns, but can there be a ghost website? could become exactly that, if we don’t get more support from the readers and listeners who claim to love us so much. If you don’t want the wind to start whistling past your blank screen the next time you fire up your computer, do the right thing: Subscribe today!

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