Oil boom delivers baby boom in North Dakota

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After more than two decades of worries about a shrinking population and plummeting birth rate, North Dakota is bouncing back with an increase in population in new natives of the state.

Forum Communications reports that the number of births in North Dakota topped 10,000 in 2012, hitting a baby benchmark last reached almost 25 years ago. Although 2013's official tally has not yet been calculated, North Dakota recorded more than 11,000 births last year according to Carmell Barth, vital records research analyst for the state Health Department.

The recent jump in births has occurred throughout most of the state, but is most pronounced in the west. Births essentially doubled in many Oil Patch counties in the decade between 2002 to 2012.

“Economic boom begets baby boom,” said Verlin Hinsz, interim director of the Center for Social Research at North Dakota State University.

North Dakota's economic growth and subsequent baby boom goes against national trends. CNN called the Great Recession "quite the romantic buzzkill." Last June, MSN noted that nationally, the birth rate fell during the recession and has not yet recovered. The U.S. birth rate remained at a record low in 2012 when there were 63.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age, down from a high of 69.3 per 1,000 women in 2007.

In the 80's and 90's, North Dakota weathered a farm crisis and an oil bust and saw a resulting exodus of young people. In 2002, 7,635 births in North Dakota were recorded. A gradual increase in new babies arrived in 2003, with a sharp rise between 2011 and 2012, when births jumped from 9,234 to 10,072.

Medical facilities located in the oil field are taking steps to prepare for more new citizens. St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson is building a new medical center and will add another labor-delivery room. Trinity Health in Minot and Mercy Medical Center in Williston also are increasing their birth center capacities to handle the hike in births.

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