Publications

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  • Natural Amenities Drive Rural Population Change

    AER-781, October 01, 1999

    Climate, topography, and water area are highly related to rural county population change over the past 25 years. A natural amenities index, derived and discussed here, captures much of this relationship. Average 1970-96 population change in nonmetropolitan counties was 1 percent among counties low on the natural amenities index and 120 percent among counties high on the index. Most retirement counties and recreation counties score in the top quarter of the amenities index. Employment change is also highly related to natural amenities, although more so over the past 25 years than in the current decade. The importance of particular amenities varies by region. In the Midwest, for example, people are drawn to lakes for recreation and retirement, while people are attracted to the West for its varied topography.

  • Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural Land

    AER-803, June 30, 2001

    Land development in the United States is following two routes: expansion of urban areas and large-lot development (greater than 1 acre per house) in rural areas. Urban expansion claimed more than 1 million acres per year between 1960 and 1990, yet is not seen as a threat to most farming, although it may reduce production of some high-value or specialty crops. The consequences of continued large-lot development may be less sanguine, since it consumes much more land per unit of housing than the typical suburb. Controlling growth and planning for it are the domains of State and local governments. The Federal Government may be able to help them in such areas as building capacity to plan and control growth, providing financial incentives for channeling growth in desirable directions, or coordinating local, regional, and State efforts.

  • Rural Amenities: A Key Reason for Farmland Protection

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    ERS found various objectives mentioned in the authorizing legislation for State farmland protection programs, including protecting "rural amenities." Rural amenities include open space, scenic views, rural agrarian character, and wildlife habitat that are enjoyed through viewing or recreation.

  • The Roots of Rural Population Loss

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Over half of the U.S. counties where farming accounted for at least 20 percent of earnings in 1987-89 had fewer residents in 2000 than in 1990. The 565 farming-dependent counties represent about a quarter of all rural counties, but they make up nearly two-thirds of the counties with population losses of over 5 percent in 1990-2000.

  • Rural America At A Glance, 2004

    AIB-793, September 30, 2004

    Rural America At A Glance, 2004 is a six-page brochure that highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas. The brochure is the third in a series of reports that uses current social and economic data to highlight population, labor market, income, and poverty trends in rural areas. This brochure provides information on key rural conditions and trends for use by public and private decisionmakers and others in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people and their communities.

  • Farm Programs, Natural Amenities, and Rural Development

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2005

    Do farm program payments boost the vitality of rural communities? ERS research finds that natural amenities - temperate climate, a mix of forest and open space, lakes - are highly correlated with population and employment growth, and these amenities are relatively scarce in agricultural areas with substantial farm program payments.

  • Farmland Protection: The Role of Public Preferences for Rural Amenities

    AER-815, April 28, 2005

    Investigates the relative importance of preserving different amenities conserved by farmland protection programs. Examines farmland protection program enabling legislation in the 48 contiguous States, and implementation of these programs in five Northeastern States.

  • Recreation, Tourism, and Rural Well-Being

    ERR-7, August 09, 2005

    Recreation and tourism development generally increases local employment, wage levels, and income in rural areas. Drawbacks include higher housing costs. Local effects vary significantly, depending on the type of recreation area.

  • Rural Areas Benefit From Recreation and Tourism Development

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Recreation and tourism development contributes to rural well-being, increasing local employment, wage levels, and income; reducing poverty; and improving education and health. But recreation and tourism development is not without drawbacks, including higher housing costs.

  • Recreation Counties Are the Fastest Growing Nonmetro Counties

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    The appeal of rural areas for recreation has a long history, going back as far as colonial times, when places with restorative hot springs emerged as resorts. Today some rural communities are capitalizing on their recreational appeal to foster new economic development, helping retain or increase population. Researchers from ERS and Loyola University Chicago have identified 300 nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties that have a major dependence on recreational activity (recreation counties).

  • Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2002

    EIB-14, May 31, 2006

    This publication presents the results of the latest (2002) inventory of U.S. major land uses, drawing on data from the Census, public land management and conservation agencies, and other sources. The data are synthesized by State to calculate the use of several broad classes and subclasses of agricultural and nonagricultural land over time. The United States has a total land area of nearly 2.3 billion acres. Major uses in 2002 were forest-use land, 651 million acres (28.8 percent); grassland pasture and range land, 587 million acres (25.9 percent); cropland, 442 million acres (19.5 percent); special uses (primarily parks and wildlife areas), 297 million acres (13.1 percent); miscellaneous other uses, 228 million acres (10.1 percent); and urban land, 60 million acres (2.6 percent). National and regional trends in land use are discussed in comparison with earlier major land-use estimates.

  • Rural Amenities: A Key Reason for Farmland Protection

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    While conversions of farmland to urban uses represent less than 0.1 percent of U.S. farmland per year, local farmland losses continue to cause concern and motivate growing public support for farmland protection.

  • Rural America At A Glance, 2006 Edition

    EIB-18, August 29, 2006

    Rural America At A Glance, 2006 Edition highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas. The brochure provides information on key rural conditions and trends for use by public and private decisionmakers and others in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people and their communities.

  • Rural America At A Glance, 2007 Edition

    EIB-31, October 01, 2007

    Rural America At A Glance, 2007 highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas. The brochure provides information on key rural conditions and trends for use by public and private decisionmakers and others involved in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people and their communities.

  • Farm-Based Recreation: A Statistical Profile

    ERR-53, December 31, 2007

    Farm-based recreation provides an important niche market for farmers, but limited empirical information is available on the topic. Access to two USDA databases, the 2004 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) and the 2000 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, provided researchers with a deeper understanding of who operates farm-based recreation enterprises, such as hunting and fishing operations, horseback riding businesses, on-farm rodeos, and petting zoos. Regression analysis identified the importance of various farmer and farm characteristics, as well as local and regional factors associated with farmer operation of, and income derived from, farm-based recreation.

  • Scenic Landscapes Enhance Rural Growth

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2009

    Where landscapes are attractive, rural location has little bearing on county population change or housing values, but where landscapes are less appealing, the more rural and remote a county, the less population growth and the lower the value of houses.

  • Baby Boom Migration and Its Impact on Rural America

    ERR-79, August 10, 2009

    If baby boomers follow past migration patterns, the nonmetro population age 55-75 will increase by 30 percent between now and 2020, with some rural communities affected more than others.

  • Baby Boom Migration Tilts Toward Rural America

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    If baby boomers follow migration patterns similar to those of their predecessors, the rural population age 55-75 will increase by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. Local economic development strategies aimed at attracting more jobs will likely have little effect on the migration decisions of baby boomers searching for a better quality of life.

  • Rural America at a Glance, 2010 Edition

    EIB-68, September 13, 2010

    Rural America At A Glance, 2010 Edition highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas. The 2010 edition focuses on the U.S. rural economy, including employment trends, poverty, and demographics.

  • Nonmetropolitan Outmigration Counties: Some Are Poor, Many Are Prosperous

    ERR-107, November 12, 2010

    Over a third of U.S. nonmetropolitan counties lost at least 10 percent of their population through net outmigration during the past two decades. ERS compares characteristics of such counties with other nonmetro counties.