Thursday, August 20, 2015

States battle rural flight with income tax breaks and student loan repayment

Rural states with decreasing populations are trying to retain people with tax incentives, while localities are searching for ways to share services or cut back. Population loss has been a trend for a long time in many areas of rural America, and it's increased since 2010, according to a Stateline analysis. "Although 759 rural counties in 42 states lost population between 1994 and 2010, more than 1,300 rural counties in 46 states have lost population since 2010," Tim Henderson writes for Stateline.

Stateline map
"Counties are regionalizing and sharing resources in the face of this rural flight, which is the long-term impact when the younger generation just leaves after college because there's no job opportunities that make it fiscally viable for you to return back home," said Arthur Scott, who works on rural issues for the National Association of Counties.

In Colorado, some schools have switched to online, and North Dakota and Michigan have switched to gravel roads. Nebraska is accepting applications for enterprise zones, which are designed to promote new businesses in areas with population decline and high poverty and unemployment rates. In 2011, Kansas began offering incentives—such as state income tax breaks and student loan partial repayment—for those who moved to rural counties with population losses, Henderson writes.

Some people are skeptical about Kansas's strategy. The program "may help a few families here and there, which is of course very important for those people and can give positive examples to some communities," said Laszlo Kulcsar, a demographer at Kansas State University. "But we have to remember that it was designed to counter long-term depopulation, in which is it terribly ineffective." (Read more)

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