Are school systems ready to shrink? Why Outer Suburbs in the East and Midwest Have Stopped Booming

Robert Gebeloff:

Hunterdon County, N.J., is rich. It ranks sixth nationally among counties in median household income, and has for decades exemplified the American outer-ring suburb.

But in one crucial measure, this exurban enclave 60 miles west of Manhattan resembles old mill communities in northern New England or impoverished regions of Appalachia. The measure is death as compared to birth, otherwise known by demographers as “natural increase.” In this case, it’s negative.

Hunterdon County residents gave birth to 3,590 babies between 2013 and 2016. But even more residents — 3,647 — died. Go back to a four-year period two decades earlier: 5,882 births, 2,947 deaths.