BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Small communities in Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region are growing faster population-wise than Bethel, the commercial hub for that part of the state.
It's part of a trend spreading across western and northern communities of Alaska, whose overall population has remained steady for several years, KYUK reported. Villages are growing the most, even though hubs like Bethel, Dillingham, Nome and Kotzebue have slowly increasing populations, said state demographer Eddie Hunsinger.
Population numbers are determined by various factors, including deaths, births and migrations in- and-out of communities. Populations in western and northern Alaska are younger, with fewer deaths and more births, Hunsinger said.
"In Western and Northern regions of the state, there's typically some net migration losses, more people leaving the region than moving to the region," he said. "But it's a little bit more than compensated by the number of births."
According to state estimates, 40 percent of the Y-K Delta region's population was younger than 20 in 2017, and 70 percent was younger than 40.
Bethel represented one-fourth of the region's total population in 2010, dropping two percentage points by 2017, state estimates show.
Collecting village population information has some limitations, Hunsinger said. People might claim multiple places as a residence and numerous families often live in one house.
"Household living arrangements are a bit different than in the rest of the state and other parts of the country," Hunsinger said.
Despite the population growth in villages, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in southcentral Alaska remains the fastest growing part of the state.