By Kara Herlihy
In this third installment in a series of articles asking, "Where have all the young people gone?" <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> will examine population demographics over the past two to three decades: statistics that might help explain the exodus of youth.
Who lives in The Valley? Who is moving here? More importantly, who is moving out? Where are the young families? What can account for Vermont's rapidly aging state and steadily decreasing birth rates?
Statistics indicate that in The Valley and Washington County, the 65-plus population is on the rise, while those ranging between 20 and 34 are dwindling out, making Vermont the most "rapidly aging state,' according to the Central Vermont Community Profile (CVCP).
According to the 2006 Valley Data Report, the median age in the Valley is 39.8. The median age for Washington County is 38.5 and for the state, 37.7. A regional Data Profile prepared by Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission reports that in 1970, there were 1,773 people between the ages of 18 and 64 in The Valley out of a total 3,239.
In 1980 that number increased to 3,244 out of 5,011 total population. In 1990 the number of 18- to 64-year-olds in The Valley and Washington County stood at 4,058, which over the next 10 years steadily decreased to 3,153. In 2000, the trend continues; those between 20 and 34 decreased to 3,709.
The number of workforce-age residents is dropping, while those over 64 continue to increase.
"The growth of the 65 and older population in Vermont is going to present challenges in providing services to older citizens in rural settings... the negative growth in those 18 and under for many counties will continue to challenge the education community...this pattern will also create real challenges for businesses that need to grow to meet labor needs now, but will experience a sharp decline in workforce as the population continues to age," according to the CVCP.
WE GREW HERE, YOU FLEW HERE
What is to blame for this mass youth exodus? While it seems that many homegrown Vermont kids stick around just long enough to get an education and a unique childhood, none of them seem to hang around to have children of their own.
Instead, the young workforce is being replaced by out-of-state retirees, moving to the quiet farm country free of sirens and cul-de-sacs. The Valley is a great place to slow down, maybe too slow for the young people.
The number of kids 18 and under is decreasing just about as fast as the working set. Between 1990 and 2000, The Valley and Washington County had a 2.45 percent decrease for the 18-and-under age group, compared to a measly 2.75 percent growth for the state.
The CVCP reports, "The housing shortage pushes young families to other states offering a more favorable balance between wages and housing costs. Vermont's median age is second highest in the nation."
Between 1990 and 2000 Washington County and The Valley saw an 8.87 percent increase in those 65 and older, and a 17.64 percent increase statewide. The Valley is a strong example of a larger, statewide trend but is still an anomaly considering the numerous recreational venues and seasonal attractions. Those lifts don't run themselves, after all.
MAD RIVER VALLEY: WHERE FUN GOES TO DIE
Until next week, when The Valley Reporter examines the slow turnings of The Valley social scene -- a place where the lack of bars, restaurants and live music venues are so secret, they may not exist.