Rural counties like Northampton are losing people due to higher death rates than birth rates and more people moving away than moving in. A good friend of the Mirror, Tony Sacco turned us on to a great book, “The Left Behind”, which deals with America’s rural problem. We are still reading and will report on it in-depth at a later date.
The 2020 census is likely to show the extent of this trend, expecting the share of the population living in rural counties will be less than it was in 2010.A majority of rural counties saw their populations dwindle, including 54% of rural counties in the Northeast and 68% of those in the Midwest, according to a study by Pew Research.
Why are rural areas are losing population?
Exodus of jobs and youth
73% of rural counties had more people move out than move in, says Fry, and the trend was again most notable in the Northeast and Midwest. Of the 1,969 rural counties Pew Research studied, almost 1,197 have fewer people employed today than they did in 2000.
Note: With technology allowing us to be more connected than ever, many economists and demographers thought there would be a rural revival, but that hasn’t happened.
Birth rates vs. death rates
Young people tend to move out of more rural areas at a rate higher than people move in. A newer trend is that there are more people dying in many rural areas than being born. The percentage of rural citizens who are 65+ is 4% higher than the national average. While death rates in metro areas for 18- to 64-year-olds have been declining, these working-age deaths have been on the rise in more rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Immigrants and minorities
Rural areas are overwhelmingly white — only 2.3% of the population in rural counties is foreign-born, compared to nearly 15% in urban counties, according to Census data. Because of this, they continue to struggle to attract immigrants and minorities, who tend to move to urban areas. However, immigrants have already started moving out to suburban areas. And as immigrants and non-whites become an increasingly large percentage of the U.S. population, they could eventually move to rural areas as well.
Higher death rates for 18 to 64-year-olds in rural counties are often attributed at least in part to the opioid epidemic, which has ravaged many rural areas in the U.S.
Some states are making efforts to increase the population of rural areas. Vermont, a mostly rural state, has started a program to pay people with jobs elsewhere to live in the state and work remotely.