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Two-thirds of U.S. nonmetro counties lost population over 2010-14

Monday, June 29, 2015

During 2010-14, the number of nonmetro counties that lost population reached a historic high of 1,310. County population loss stems from two possible sources: more people leaving a county than moving into it (net outmigration) and/or more people dying than are being born (natural decrease). Historically, the vast majority of counties that lost population still continued to experience natural increase, just not enough to offset losses from net outmigration (this scenario describes less than half of the 2010-14 population loss counties). The number of nonmetro counties with population loss from both net out-migration and natural decrease grew from 387 before the recession (2003-07) to 622 during 2010-14. Clusters of counties experiencing this demographic ‘double-jeopardy’ have expanded, especially in Alabama, southern Appalachia, along the Virginia-North Carolina border, and in New England. The rising number of double-jeopardy counties signals new challenges in maintaining future population growth and sustained economic development. This map is based on information found in the Population & Migration topic page, updated June 2015.

Return migration among young families partially offsets rural population loss

Monday, June 8, 2015

Rural population loss is generally characterized as young people leaving. A typical nonmetropolitan county (based on the 50th percentile, or median, statistic) lost 28 percent of their 20-24 year olds to net out-migration during 2000-10, compared to just an 8-percent decline in the typical metropolitan county. However, stemming rural population loss may depend less on retaining young adults after high school than on attracting them back as they settle down to start careers and raise children. Median net migration rates in nonmetropolitan counties are highest among adults 30-34 and children 5-9. Interviews with rural return migrants showed that most came home with spouses and brought young children with them or soon started families. Conversations about returning centered on the value of family connections for child-raising in a small town environment. Return migrants described other aspects of home that bolstered their decision to move back, including schools with smaller class sizes, access to outdoor recreation, and shorter trips for work and shopping. This chart is found in the ERS report, Factors Affecting Former Residents' Returning to Rural Communities, ERR-185, May 2015.

A growing female presence among rural veterans is likely to continue

Friday, May 22, 2015

The demographics of rural veterans are shifting as newly separated cohorts of younger veterans replace older veterans, and an increasing number of women serve and retire from the military. Since the change from a conscription-based military to an all-volunteer force in 1973, the presence of women in the military has grown from less than 2 percent of active duty personnel to more than 14 percent; as a result, the share of female veterans has steadily increased. In rural (nonmetro) counties, their share more than doubled from the end of Gulf War I (1990-1991) to the present, rising from 3.0 percent in 1992 to 6.3 percent in 2013. Over 40 percent of rural female veterans served during Gulf Wars I and II (2003-2011), compared with less than 5 percent of rural male veterans, reflecting a more youthful rural female veteran population. In 2013, 55 percent of rural female veterans were under the age of 55 compared to 26 percent of rural male veterans. This chart is based on information found in Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Frontier and Remote (FAR) codes pinpoint Nation's most remote regions

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Small population size and geographic remoteness provide benefits for residents and visitors alike, but those same characteristics often create economic and social challenges. Job creation, population retention, and provision of goods/services (such as groceries, health care, clothing, household appliances, and other consumer items) require increased efforts in very rural, remote communities. The newly updated ERS Frontier and Remote area (FAR) codes identify remote areas of the United States using travel times to nearby cities. Results for level one FAR codes (which include ZIP code areas with majority of their population living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more people) show that 12.2 million Americans reside more than a one-hour drive from any city of 50,000 or more people. They constitute just 3.9 percent of the U.S. population living in territory covering 52 percent of U.S. land area. Wyoming has the highest share of its population living in FAR level one ZIP code areas (57 percent), followed by Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska. This map, along with the full detail of FAR codes levels 1-4 may be found in the ERS data product, Frontier and Remote Area Codes, updated April 2015.

Degree of rurality influences recent U.S. county population growth and decline

Thursday, April 16, 2015

ERS Rural Urban Continuum (RUC) codes subdivide the broad metro/nonmetro categories into three metro and six nonmetro groupings. Recently released county-level estimates show that population change within the RUC ranged from over 4-percent growth in metro areas with 1 million or more people to 1-percent declines in the two rural, nonmetro categories. Overall population growth occurred in nonmetro counties with sizeable towns (more than 20,000 urban residents) despite net out-migration. In these counties, employment opportunities often attract younger populations, which in turn imparts higher rates of natural increase (more births than deaths) compared with other nonmetro counties. Conversely, long-term out-migration of younger people results in an older average population in the most rural counties, creating a pattern of natural decrease (more deaths than births). For decades, nonmetro counties that were physically adjacent to metro areas grew rapidly from suburbanization. This is no longer happening, due to the effects of the housing crisis, changing residential preferences that favor urban centers, and reclassification of fast-growing suburban counties from nonmetro to metro. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Population and Migration, updated April 2015.

Rural population decline continues in 2014

Monday, April 6, 2015

The number of people living in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties declined for the fourth year in a row according to population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. While hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely-settled regions, this marks the first period of population decline for rural (nonmetro) areas as a whole. Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths, and changing migration patterns. From July 2013 to July 2014, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (58,348 more births than deaths) did not match the decrease in population from net migration (89,251 more people moved out than moved in), leading to overall population loss. The contribution of natural change to rural population growth will likely continue its gradual downward trend due to historically low fertility rates and an aging population. Net migration rates are prone to short-term fluctuations in response to economic conditions. This chart is based on the data found in County-level Datasets: Population on the ERS website, updated April 2015.

African American population growth rates higher than U.S. average

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The estimated 42 million African Americans living in the United States in 2013 made up close to 13 percent of the population. During a post-recession population slowdown in the United States, African Americans have continued to experience relatively high rates of population growth, the result of higher fertility rates and a younger average population. Population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show gains among African Americans in all urban/rural county types except for the most sparsely-settled and remote areas (nonadjacent rural) during 2010-13. For the total population, suburbanization trends in the U.S. slowed markedly with the onset of the housing crisis and recession. Suburban fringe counties (metro outlying) now show slower rates of growth than the central cities of metro areas, although the African American population growth rate has not yet experienced this historic shift. Similarly, the African American population continues to show gains in those nonmetro counties most likely to be suburbanizing (nonmetro adjacent) at a time when those counties show overall population declines. This chart expands on one found in Shifting Geography of Population Change, a chapter in the ERS website topic page on Rural Population and Migration.

American Indians remain disproportionally rural

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Despite rapid increases in their urban population in recent decades, American Indians (including Alaska native populations but excluding those reporting more than one race) remain disproportionately rural compared with other groups. Based on self-identified race, 29 percent of all American Indians lived in rural areas in 2010, compared with about 15 percent of the total U.S. population. Persistent out-migration of rural residents finishing high school was as pronounced among American Indians as it was for the rural population as a whole, reflected in a slight dip in the percentage of working age adults residing in rural America. In addition, 52 percent of rural American Indians and the rural U.S. population in general were age 20-59, indicating an equal level of economic dependency on rural working-age adults, whether American Indian or not. But rural American Indians are much more likely to be young (under 20) than the total rural population (which has a higher share of population age 60 and older), putting very different pressures on family finances and public support programs. Find county-level data on the American Indian and Alaska Native population in ERS’s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.

Editor's Pick 2014:<br>An aging rural veteran population declined over the last 20 years

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nearly 4 million veterans resided in rural (nonmetropolitan) America in 2012. They are a rapidly aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise over 10 percent of the rural adult population despite their persistently declining numbers; the number of veterans living in rural areas declined from 6.6 million in 1992 to 3.8 million in 2012. A drop in the size of the active military population since 1990, from 3 million to roughly 1.4 million, and natural decrease due to aging (over half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared to 18 percent of the nonveteran rural population) means the downward trend in the number of rural veterans will likely continue for many years. Whether due to their military service or because of their age profile, over 20 percent of rural, working-age veterans report disability status compared with 11 percent of nonveterans. Taken together, their older age and higher incidence of disabilities make the well-being of rural veterans, as a group, increasingly dependent on access to medical care in rural areas. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Editor's Pick 2014: <br>Rural Hispanic population growth mirrors national trends

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Between 1990 and 2013, the Hispanic population in the United States (including both foreign and U.S. born) increased from 22.4 million to 54.1 million, growing 142 percent compared with 16 percent for the non-Hispanic population for the same period. Prior to 1990, growth of the Hispanic population was concentrated in larger cities and in relatively few States, mostly in the Southwest. The rural (nonmetro) Hispanic population grew at less than half the rate seen in urban (metro) areas during the 1980s—2.2 percent per year compared with 4.5 percent. Since 1990, however, growth in the Hispanic population has been widespread, occurring in metropolitan and rural communities in every region of the country; average annual population growth rates have been identical for metro and nonmetro Hispanic populations since 2000. However, both rural and urban areas have experienced lower rates of growth among Hispanics since the recession, due in part to a decline in immigration. Rural population growth remains above 2 percent per year for Hispanics, in marked contrast to population decline among non-Hispanic populations, averaging -0.2 percent per year since 2010. This chart updates one found in the ERS newsroom feature, Immigration and the Rural Workforce.

The earnings advantage from higher education is more pronounced in urban areas

Friday, December 12, 2014

Despite an upward trend in rural educational attainment levels over time, a larger proportion of working-age adults in urban areas have college degrees. This rural-urban disparity is partly the result of considerably higher earnings levels for college graduates and advanced degree holders in urban areas. Many young adults leave rural areas to attend college, and many remain in urban areas after college due to the higher earnings available to them in those areas. In contrast, differences between rural and urban earnings levels are much smaller for those with less education, who thus have less incentive to move to urban areas. However, despite the lower earnings generally available in rural areas, some individuals and families at all levels of educational attainment migrate from urban to rural areas, as quality-of-life factors, lower housing costs, personal ties, or other specific opportunities motivate them to move or move back to rural America. This chart is found in the 2014 edition of Rural America at a Glance, EB-26, November 2014.

An aging rural veteran population declined over the last 20 years

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nearly 4 million veterans resided in rural (nonmetropolitan) America in 2012. They are a rapidly aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise over 10 percent of the rural adult population despite their persistently declining numbers; the number of veterans living in rural areas declined from 6.6 million in 1992 to 3.8 million in 2012. A drop in the size of the active military population since 1990, from 3 million to roughly 1.4 million, and natural decrease due to aging (over half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared to 18 percent of the nonveteran rural population) means the downward trend in the number of rural veterans will likely continue for many years. Whether due to their military service or because of their age profile, over 20 percent of rural, working-age veterans report disability status compared with 11 percent of nonveterans. Taken together, their older age and higher incidence of disabilities make the well-being of rural veterans, as a group, increasingly dependent on access to medical care in rural areas. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Rural Hispanic population growth mirrors national trends

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Between 1990 and 2013, the Hispanic population in the United States (including both foreign and U.S. born) increased from 22.4 million to 54.1 million, growing 142 percent compared with 16 percent for the non-Hispanic population for the same period. Prior to 1990, growth of the Hispanic population was concentrated in larger cities and in relatively few States, mostly in the Southwest. The rural (nonmetro) Hispanic population grew at less than half the rate seen in urban (metro) areas during the 1980s—2.2 percent per year compared with 4.5 percent. Since 1990, however, growth in the Hispanic population has been widespread, occurring in metropolitan and rural communities in every region of the country; average annual population growth rates have been identical for metro and nonmetro Hispanic populations since 2000. However, both rural and urban areas have experienced lower rates of growth among Hispanics since the recession, due in part to a decline in immigration. Rural population growth remains above 2 percent per year for Hispanics, in marked contrast to population decline among non-Hispanic populations, averaging -0.2 percent per year since 2010. This chart updates one found in the ERS newsroom feature, Immigration and the Rural Workforce.

Post-recession rural employment growth has remained sluggish

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In December 2007, six years of economic growth ended as the U.S. economy entered the most severe recession since the Great Depression. Despite starting earlier and falling slightly more, employment trends in rural (nonmetro) areas followed much the same pattern as urban (metro) areas during the recession and the beginning of the economic recovery. Beginning in 2011, nonmetro employment grew much more slowly than urban employment, and growth fell to zero or slightly below throughout 2012 and 2013. Preliminary data for 2014 show an uptick in nonmetro employment; however, at the end of the second quarter of 2014, nonmetro employment remained 3.5 percent below its pre-recession peak while metro employment exceeded pre-recession levels. A lower (often negative) rate of population growth, and an older, less-educated work force have all contributed to sluggish employment growth in nonmetro counties since the end of the 2007/09 recession. This chart updates data presented in the ERS report, Rural Employment Trends in Recession and Recovery, ERR-172, August 25, 2014.

On average, rural veterans are older than nonveterans

Friday, May 23, 2014

Nearly 4 million veterans reside in rural America (defined here as residents of nonmetropolitan counties). Rural veterans are an aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise nearly 11 percent of the rural adult population, although their numbers are consistently declining. The share of rural veterans differs by age, ranging from less than 3 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds up to 25 percent of those aged 65 and older. The age distribution of rural veterans tends to be older than nonveterans; nearly half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared with only 18 percent of rural nonveterans. The aging of the rural veteran population is largely due to the fact that a smaller share of the population now serves in the military than in the past. For instance, nearly 20 percent of American men served in the military during World War II, compared to less than 1 percent today. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Nearly two-thirds of rural U.S. counties have lost population since 2010

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Population change is varied across rural and small-town America. Since 2010, over 1,200 rural (nonmetropolitan) counties have lost population, with declines totaling nearly 400,000 people. At the same time, the population of just over 700 rural counties grew, together adding just over 300,000 residents. New regional patterns of growth and decline emerged in recent years. Areas of population decline appeared for the first time in the eastern United States, including New England, the North Carolina-Virginia border, and southern Ohio. Falling birth rates, an aging rural population, and a declining manufacturing base contributed to population downturns in these regions. In the Mountain West, population growth also slowed considerably, and in some cases turned negative, for the first time in decades, affecting numerous counties in western Colorado and Wyoming, central Oregon, and northern Idaho. In contrast, an energy boom has spurred population growth in sections of the northern Great Plains that had previously experienced long-term population declines. This map is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Population and Migration, updated April 2014.

Rural population decline continues in 2013

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rural population (determined by nonmetropolitan status) declined for the third year in a row according to population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. While hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely-settled regions, this marks the first period of population decline for rural (nonmetro) areas as a whole. Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths, and changing migration patterns. Since 2010, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (193,000 more births than deaths) has not matched the decrease in population from net migration (276,000 more people moved out than moved in). While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions. Thus, this period of rural population loss may be short-lived depending on the course of the economic recovery. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Population and Migration, updated April 2014.

Editor's Pick 2013:<br>Nonmetro areas declined in population, 2011-12, perhaps for the first time

Monday, December 30, 2013

Nonmetro population has grown more slowly than metro population since the mid-1990s and the gap has widened considerably in recent years. Between July 2011 and July 2012, nonmetro population declined for the first time since annual county population estimates were first recorded in the 1960s. Historically, nonmetro population grew because natural increase (more births than deaths) always offset net migration loss (more people moving out than moving in). But falling birth rates and an aging population have steadily dampened the natural increase in nonmetro population over time. Nonmetro net migration rates, which tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions, last peaked in 2006 just prior to the housing mortgage crisis before falling dramatically. New population estimates are subject to revision, the rate of population decline for this single year is quite small, and the trend may be short-lived. Nonetheless, 2011-12 marks the first year with estimated net migration losses exceeding natural increase in nonmetro areas. This chart is based on County-level Data Sets. Originally published on Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

Rural high-poverty counties are concentrated in the South and Southwest

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The national poverty rate (based on pre-tax income of less than $23,492 for an average family of four) was 15.0 percent in 2012; the rate was 17.7 percent in nonmetro areas and 14.5 percent in metro areas. High-poverty counties—those with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher—are often geographically clustered. During 2007-11, there were 703 high-poverty counties in the United States; 571 were nonmetro, mostly in the South and Southwest. Most newly-classified rural high-poverty counties are located adjacent to clusters of historically high-poverty counties, but some were outside these clusters, mainly in areas with substantial losses in the real estate market and manufacturing employment between 2006 and 2009. This map is found in Rural America at a Glance, 2013 edition, released November 2013.

Recent employment growth in U.S. nonmetro areas remains flat

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in both rural and urban areas during the Great Recession of 2007-09. In 2010, the first year of the economic recovery, metro and nonmetro employment levels grew at comparable rates. Since the start of 2011, however, net job growth in nonmetro areas has been near zero while employment in metro counties has grown at an annual rate of 1.4 percent. The stagnation in nonmetro job growth overlaps with the first recorded period of nonmetro population loss, between 2010 and 2012, which was driven by a decrease in net migration to rural areas. This lack of population growth, combined with a falling labor force participation rate, has permitted the nonmetro unemployment rate to fall slowly but steadily despite the lack of employment growth. This chart is found in Rural America at a Glance, 2013 Edition, released November 2013.