In 2016-17, the rural population increased for the first time this decade, due to lower population loss from net migration

A chart showing rural (nonmetro) population change and its components, 1976-2017

The decline in U.S. rural population, which began in 2010, has reversed for the first time this decade. In 2016-17, the rural population increased by 0.1 percent (adding 33,000 people). This recent upturn in rural population growth stems from increasing rates of net migration, which includes urban-to-rural migration as well as immigration from foreign countries. Rural net migration increased from −0.25 percent in 2011-12 to essentially zero in 2016-17. During the same period, population growth from natural change (births minus deaths) dropped from 0.12 percent to 0.08 percent. This continues a long-term downward trend in growth rates from natural change due to lower fertility rates, an aging population, and, more recently, increasing mortality rates for some age groups. While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions. With growth from natural change projected to continue falling, future population growth in rural America will depend more on increasing net migration—which has coincided with declining rural unemployment, rising incomes, and declining poverty since 2013. These improved labor market conditions have allowed rural areas to retain more residents and attract more newcomers. The total rural population has remained close to 46.1 million since 2013. This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2018 Edition.

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