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118 Georgia counties report more deaths than births in 2020, a new record

The number of Georgia counties reporting more deaths than births jumped to 118 in 2020, up dramatically from 78 in 2019, according to new county-level mortality data published Monday by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

The increase was generally expected. DPH reported in June that 2020 births were down 3.1 percent from 2019, and the Covid-19 death toll seemed certain to drive a big increase in the number of counties where burials outnumbered births.

All told, births still outnumbered deaths in Georgia, but by the narrowest margin recorded in the quarter-century DPH has been reporting county-level birth and death data. The 19,265 surplus of births over deaths was less than half the 40,000-plus surplus recorded in 2018 and ’19, and not even a quarter of the 83,051 surplus record set in 2007.

As the graph at the right shows, the birth and death lines have been converging for nearly 15 years now. One curiosity in the 2020 death numbers is that Covid-19 accounted for only a little over half of the total increase in the number of deaths over 2019.

Statewide, the total number of deaths skyrocketed from 85,641 in 2019 to 103,114 in 2020 — and Covid-19 was cited as the cause of death in only 9,446 of those 2020 cases.

Even without the Covid-19 deaths, 2020 would have set a record for the total number of deaths and the percentage increase over the previous year. With the Covid-19 deaths included, the number of deaths rose 20.4 percent over 2019; without the Covid-19 deaths, the increase was 9.4 percent. In the 25 years DPH has been reporting data, the number of deaths had never hit five percent in a single year — and the increase was usually much less.

(A cursory review of the DPH data failed to turn up a big chunk of deaths attributable to a single cause of death — although a number of categories appeared to be up by somewhat higher percentages. TIGC will continue to sift through the data for a more complete explanation.)

Also unsurprising: the surplus of births over deaths was concentrated primarily in and around Metro Atlanta and, to a lesser degree, the Georgia coast, as this map illustrates:

Indeed, TIGC's North Georgia, Middle Georgia and South Georgia regions all posted more deaths than births. TIGC's 12 Metro Atlanta counties reported 21,050 more births than deaths while TIGC's seven Coastal Georgia counties posted a surplus of 1,926 births -- this despite the fact that Glynn County suffered the biggest death-to-birth deficit in the state. It posted 313 more deaths than births, and 2020 was only the second time in the past quarter-century that it hasn't recorded more births. Gwinnett County posted the biggest surplus of births over deaths -- 5,331.

Few if any of these numbers are surprising, and they are in line with county-level 2020 Census data that was released last week.

The number of counties reporting more deaths than births began to rise about a decade ago, and was first reported by TIGC several years ago. The big jump from 78 to 118 counties -- more than two-thirds of Georgia's total of 159 counties -- was far and away the biggest one-year increase since the current trendline started rising in the wake of the Great Recession.

The table below shows 2020 births and deaths for all 159 Georgia counties, along with the number of Covid-19 deaths and the percentage of total deaths caused by Covid-19.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. armanidog #

    When will a population drop for each county be available?
    Politically this looks like more red counties will have to consolidate to keep their US Congress representation at the minimum. They will have a hard time keeping up their majority.

    August 16, 2021
  2. Walter Jones #

    There seems to be two things happening. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, people have been moving to cities to start their careers and also their families, leaving older folks in rural areas who naturally are more likely to die than have children. Second, the global trend is due to the natural tendency of affluence to result in lower fertility. As the global standard of living rises, birth rates fall. The racial differences in fertility correspond to the racial differences in affluence.

    For some years now, white fertility hasn’t met the replacement rate in the U.
    S. Other developed countries reached that point before us, such as Japan, and when immigration isn’t inflating the numbers, population is declining.

    Politically, leaders shift to policies that favor their own constituency — old folks in rural areas and younger/newcomer voters in urban areas. Hence, Georgia is

    Thanks for quantifying this for Georgia is on the path to be a blue state eventually.

    August 18, 2021
  3. armanidog #

    From AJC;s The Jolt:
    As we continue to pore over the new data from the Census Bureau, Charlie Hayslett over at Trouble in God’s Country has this fascinating insight from state data–118 of Georgia’s 159 counties recorded more deaths than births in 2020.

    Hayslett specializes in dissecting the data that illustrates the growing divide between Georgia’s prosperous Metro Atlanta region and much of the rest of the state, which is seeing both declining populations and prospects.

    August 18, 2021
  4. much of new England, rust belt central states and Alabama (25 states) had higher death rates than birth rates in 2020. America is getting old.

    December 2, 2021

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