The population of rural America decreased for a "record-breaking" sixth year in a row, but not just because young adults are migrating to cities. It's because overall mobility is at an all-time low, so the people who stay tend to be older, and now there are more deaths than births in rural America.
"County population change includes two major components: natural change (births minus deaths) and net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants)," the Yonder notes. Since 2010, 462,000 more people moved out of rural areas than moved in. But there were only 270,000 more births than death in rural areas, so the net loss was was about 192,000. In the past, births and in-migrants have almost always outnumbered deaths and out-migrants, so the population grew. But now, "declining birth rates, increasing mortality rates among working-age adults, and an aging population have led to the emergence of natural decrease (more deaths than births) in hundreds of U.S. counties, most of them rural counties. Lower rates of natural change resulted in 325 rural counties experiencing sustained natural decrease for the first time during 2010-16, adding to 645 rural counties with natural decrease during 2000-09," the Yonder reports.
|Daily Yonder map. Click to enlarge.|
The trend of rural population loss may reverse, depending on how well the economy does, but the Yonder says, "Even if temporary, this small but historic shift to overall population loss highlights a growing demographic challenge facing many regions across rural and small-town America: population growth from natural increase is no longer large enough to counter-cyclical net migration losses."