Population Losses in Rural America

The counties that lost population because people left between 2000 and 2006 are in tan. The counties that lost population because more people died than were born between 2000 and 2006 are in purple. Those that lost population for both reasons are colored dark brown.
Chart: Calvin Beale/Kathleen Kassel/ERS

There are two ways for a county to grow its population. More people can move in. Or, there can be more births than deaths. During the 1990s, rural counties gained from both migration and from natural increases in population. This century, those increases slacked — and for a large swath of rural America, there were double-dipper declines in both natural increase and migration.

The map above shows both kinds of losses in rural counties — those that had more people moving out than moving in and those that had more people dying than being born. The dark counties are those hit with a double whammy, losing both through migration and through natural decreases. There are nearly 500 of these counties suffering from this unusual double loss. You can see the Great Plains counties and Appalachia. And, wow, look at western Pennsylvania! The great U.S. Department of Agriculture demographer Calvin Beale, who devised this map, notes that this condition, “which did not did not arise overnight, poses difficult development challenges.�?

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