LIHUE — Kauai is following the national trend with birthrates dipping over the past decade in the midst of a statewide trend of declining resident population, too.
Hawaii Public Radio detailed the situation in a recent report, showing the number of babies statewide has been declining for a decade, and that Hawaii’s current birthrate is 10% lower than it was in 2008.
HPR data came from March of Dimes Peristats, which show birthrates in Hawaii declining from a rate in 2006 of 73.9 per 1,000 women ages 15-44. Birthrate in 2016 was at 67.6 per 1,000 women ages 15-44, according to that data, which is based on the U.S. Census.
The state Department of Health keeps track of births, deaths and marriages as well. DOH’s data continues through 2018 and they also report a statewide drop in births by just under 2,000 over the past eight years.
Statewide, there were 18,933 births recorded in 2010. In 2018, Hawaii recorded 17,006 births.
On Kauai, DOH recorded 811 births in 2010 and 723 births in 2018 — a decline of 88 births over those eight years.
Simultaneously, reported deaths have increased on Kauai over those eight years by 48; with 497 deaths reported in 2010 and 545 deaths reported in 2018.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control reported a nationwide dip in birthrates that has landed the U.S. at its lowest count in 32 years. That same study pointed to low fertility rates throughout the nation.
Some studies show it’s because the population is choosing to focus on career rather than building a family, while others show the millennial population is waiting longer to have children. Others point to a decline in teen pregnancy as a potential reason for the nation’s low birthrate.
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics, for instance, shows birthrate among 15-19 year-old women in 2018 was less than half what it was in 2008.
On Kauai, overall population has been slowly climbing despite the decline in births and increase in deaths in the county. Data from the 2010 census shows Kauai population at 67,091. Census estimates Kauai County’s population in 2018 at 72,133.
Over the past couple of years, however, that increase in population maybe turning a corner. 2017 and 2018 started to see declines in the population, with the census showing more people are leaving Hawaii than moving to the islands.
A 2018 report from the Hawaii Economic Research Organization shows people moving away from Hawaii for various reasons, including rising expenses, and says the only real growth in the Hawaii economy is in the food service industry.
Other economic effects include reports by at least two Oahu hospitals of decreases in work shifts for maternity ward nurses and a reduction in new nurse hiring, according to the Associated Press.
Faith Campbell, spokeswoman for Hawaii Pacific Health, said Wilcox hospital on Kauai has seen a decrease in births, but hasn’t made any changes in hiring practices for maternity professionals or staffing related to patient care.