Connecticut’s population will continue aging, and growth will slow down in some rural areas.
Those projections come from the Connecticut State Data Center, which conducts a population study at least every five years. The most recent study, from 2012, looked at how the state’s population would change from 2015 to 2025.
“Our fertility rates are low, and we don’t have enough children in Connecticut to replace our population,” said Orlando Rodriguez, who was the project manager for the population report in 2007. “We need in-migration, and when we have in-migration, they go to the cities where there are jobs. We mostly have people leaving because there are no jobs.”
The data center’s projections are based on historical birth and mortality rates, as well the most recent census.
Rural areas, especially in the northwest and southeast, are projected to lose residents as young people move to cities, leaving behind an aging population. The trends are visible on the map above.
However, projections aren’t guaranteed. For example, the 2007 projections were optimistic about population growth in cities and suburbs from 2010 to 2020. But the Great Recession suppressed birth rates and job growth, so fewer young families migrated to these areas than expected and population growth suffered as a result, according to Michael Howser, the project manager of the 2012 report.
Howser’s 2025 projections are based on towns’ current growth trends, and his team will revisit the data annually to see if reality matches the center’s projections. Another projection will be published later this year and will look out as far as 2030.
Rural areas, especially in the northwest and southeast, are projected to lose residents as young people move to cities, leaving behind an aging population.
Growth among children from birth to age 4 is considered indicative of a growing town; it hints that new families are arriving and settling. The state projects that high-growth towns, like Montville, which bucks the trend in southeastern Connecticut, might see 20 percent growth in this age bracket, and Middlebury might see the state’s highest growth in that bracket, at 26 percent.
Some projections are less reliable than others. Howser said that Connecticut’s smaller towns, like Bridgewater and Union, face larger deviations because even the smallest shift in some age groups can skew the data.
“Our poster child was Union…because it’s the smallest town (by population) in Connecticut and the best one to test methods against…That’s the one with the big asterisk next to it because, if a family of four moves out, everything changes,” Howser said. “When we do the review, the projections for large urban areas are exactly as expected.”
Town leaders had mixed and nuanced reaction to growth projections.
Ellington First Selectman Maurice Blanchette was cautiously optimistic. The projections indicate a 13 percent population increase for his town, which Blanchette attributes to Ellington’s school district, which attracts young families. But population growth may put additional strains on a town’s resources, he said, and an influx of students requires expansion.
“We feel like we have to keep up with it so we can maintain quality education,” Blanchette said. “And often times it’s a struggle.”
Blanchette also worries about growth’s influence on Ellington’s community identity.
“Stalwarts who’ve been here for generations would like to see slow growth, and people who just moved to our shores (inland) — they may want a little more things that you might find closer to the city. We’re trying to blend the two. Change is going to happen, period.”
Montville Mayor Ronald McDaniel said he was surprised by the projections, partly because his area, and the southeast as a whole, were hit hard by the Great Recession.
“I’m kind of flabbergasted,” he said. “It seems a little counterintuitive to have that kind of growth based on what I know.”
Although Montville has cheaper housing and a good school system, the local industries, including Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino, have not experienced significant job growth.
New London, which is projected to lose 15 percent of its population, is looking to bounce back. Chief Administrative Officer Laura Natusch said that an investment in the school system will attract young families and help counter population decline.
“We expect to buck this trend,” Natusch said. “Most importantly, we expect that by 2025, even if Connecticut as a whole experiences a population decline, our school system’s transformation will be complete and will be a strong draw.”
Let us know if you see any other trends in the data.