Declining rural population in US

While the percentage of Americans living in the suburbs has hit a high of 51 percent and 33 percent of Americans live in cities, an all-time low of 16 percent of the population now lives in rural areas:

The latest 2010 census numbers hint at an emerging America where, by midcentury, city boundaries become indistinct and rural areas grow ever less relevant. Many communities could shrink to virtual ghost towns as they shutter businesses and close down schools, demographers say.

More metro areas are booming into sprawling megalopolises. Barring fresh investment that could bring jobs, however, large swaths of the Great Plains and Appalachia, along with parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and North Texas, could face significant population declines…

The share of people in rural areas over the past decade fell to 16 percent, passing the previous low of 20 percent in 2000. The rural share is expected to drop further as the U.S. population balloons from 309 million to 400 million by midcentury, leading people to crowd cities and suburbs and fill in the open spaces around them.

In 1910, the population share of rural America was 72 percent. Such areas remained home to a majority of Americans until 1950, amid post-World War II economic expansion and the baby boom.

If people were asked to think about the biggest changes in the last 100 years, few might cite this important change: America has shifted from a majority rural population to a majority suburban/urban population. The reasons for this have been well-documented but it is still a large shift away from small towns and farms to suburbs and cities. This has impacted all areas of life: politics, economics, housing, workplaces, families, schools, and more.

It will be interesting to see how rural areas and communities are able or not able to hold on. For example, one area where this gets interesting is healthcare: with more hospitals and organizations consolidating and new regulations coming, who will want to continue to offer rural care?

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