There is a deepening sense of fear as population loss accelerates in rural America. The decline of small-town life is expected to be a looming topic in the presidential election.

America’s rural population began contracting about a decade ago, according to statistics drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A whopping 81 percent of rural counties had more deaths than births between 2019 and 2023, according to an analysis by a University of New Hampshire demographer. Experts who study the phenomena say the shrinking baby boomer population and younger residents having smaller families and moving elsewhere for jobs are fueling the trend.

According to a recent Agriculture Department estimate, the rural population did rebound by 0.25 percent from 2020 to 2022 as some families decamped from urban areas during the pandemic.

But demographers say they are still evaluating whether that trend will continue, and if so, where. Pennsylvania has been particularly afflicted. Job losses in the manufacturing and energy industries that began in the 1980s prompted many younger families to relocate to Sun Belt states. The relocations helped fuel population surges in places like Texas and Georgia. But here, two-thirds of the state’s 67 counties have experienced a drop in population in recent years.

Non-paywall link

  • cerement@slrpnk.net
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    140
    arrow-down
    3
    ·
    29 days ago
    • “younger residents having smaller families and moving elsewhere for jobs”
    • “many residents in this deeply Republican town”

    gee, I can’t imagine why young people would want to leave such a stagnant regressive environment …

  • aramis87@fedia.io
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    111
    arrow-down
    3
    ·
    29 days ago

    That’s been a general movement away from rural America for decades (and people have been leaving the countryside to make their fortune in the big city for centuries). However, this line stood out to me because of the timeframe cited:

    A whopping 81 percent of rural counties had more deaths than births between 2019 and 2023.

    Maybe I’m just still bitter, but maybe they should have tried social distancing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated.

    • ImADifferentBird@lemmy.blahaj.zone
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      21
      ·
      29 days ago

      Yeah, it is an interesting statistic, isn’t it? It definitely doesn’t seem like the kids moving away for better economic prospects is the only factor here.

    • hydrospanner@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      12
      ·
      28 days ago

      Right.

      Honestly for as much “woe is me” that they crammed into this piece, my takeaway was mostly just, “Hmmm…good.”

      Like…I love rural PA, I’m just not wild about a lot of the people who live there. They vote against my own interests (and theirs), disproportionately influence state government, and welcome corporations that proudly destroy the environment while taking a hostile stance toward anyone not like them.

      This isn’t down to every last person, of course, but broadly speaking, the ones who aren’t fitting that template are also not the ones doing most of the dying.

      So the piece is reading, to me, more as, “the people most responsible for keeping the shitty aspects of Pennsylvania shitty are dying faster than they’re breeding”…which is good news for the more reasonable residents of the state.

    • sirboozebum@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      9
      ·
      28 days ago

      This is not limited to the United States either.

      Urbanisation and the growth of cities is across the industrialised world.

      For example, while Japan’s population shrinks, Tokyo is growing.

        • Soggy@lemmy.world
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          4
          ·
          28 days ago

          We’ll probably live to see robot towns, where a small contingent of maintenence workers keep a huge fleet of automated farming/processing/shipping equipment operational. If they’re lucky Monsanto will buy a restaurant chain so there’s somewhere for them to eat nearby.

    • crusa187@lemmy.ml
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      8
      ·
      29 days ago

      This stood out to me as well, the conservative stance on C-19 and the resulting general negligence seems a very obvious major factor to the rural population decline in this timeframe.

  • Wahots@pawb.social
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    60
    arrow-down
    1
    ·
    29 days ago

    The decline is threefold:

    1. Agriculture is getting significantly more efficient. You don’t need 300 people do backbreaking labor for 12 hours a day in the beating sun anymore. We have automated threshers.

    2. Industries are shifting. We generally moved away from manufacturing and an extraction-based economy. (Though the former is recovering, thanks to Biden’s awesome investment plan)

    3. jobs are moving to cities, where there are more schools, hospitals, high paying jobs, and may be more resilient to climate change.

    Personally, I’d never ever consider moving anywhere rural for the aforementioned reasons, but also because rural americans are against my type family, and I don’t care to be the queer pioneer family for them to realize we aren’t so bad. I also never want to drive a car for a half hour+ for basic supplies or to see friends. It’s too lonely. We have rail and ebikes here. I can get to the store or a friend’s in less than 10 minutes.

    • Breve@pawb.social
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      8
      ·
      edit-2
      29 days ago

      There are still a lot of workers needed in agriculture, but increasingly they are either undocumented migrants or on restrictive visas (like temporary foreign workers in Canada) that limit their bargaining power and let their employers exploit them with poor working conditions and rock bottom wages. This means that these workers often don’t have the means or income to participate much in the local economy beyond the bare essentials. This is actually a case of “trickle down economics” where paying workers fair, living wages would lead to healthier local economies where these workers could spend those wages and support having or starting a family.

    • ikidd@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      8
      ·
      29 days ago

      Having come back to the farm later in life, the issue with rural communities (at least in Canada) isn’t prejudice, it’s that everyone is up in everyone else’s business. But we have gay couples with kids around that seem to negotiate it fine. People are fine face to face usually.

      • Soggy@lemmy.world
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        6
        ·
        28 days ago

        Fine face-to-face but still vote to make your existence illegal. I’m not alright with that kind of “civility” and it’s the reason I don’t connect with an arm of my extended family. Fuck em.

  • Jakdracula@lemmy.world
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    51
    arrow-down
    2
    ·
    29 days ago

    No duh. Have you ever been out there? Sure, it’s pretty, but that’s it. Absolutely nothing to do. Except meth. Oh, and drunk driving and KKK rallies.

    • TexasDrunk@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      17
      ·
      29 days ago

      I see you’ve been to my hometown.

      The other person that replied did mention a lot of cool things you can do in a rural community. But being half an hour from a grocery store that has something I actually want at a price that’s reasonable (as reasonable as groceries get, I guess) sucks.

    • afraid_of_zombies@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      11
      arrow-down
      1
      ·
      29 days ago

      Not hyperbole. If someone pointed a gun at me and told me that they would shot me if I don’t agree to move back to my sub-500 people Northern Appalachian village I would help that mother fucker load the gun.

    • Maeve@kbin.earth
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      17
      arrow-down
      13
      ·
      29 days ago

      Food and flower gardening, community or personal, waking, biking, swimming in rivers, fishing, sewing, knitting, getting to know your neighbors, barbecuing on wood or charcoal, building treehouses and swings, book clubs, picking up litter, mutual aid, sitting around and singing/playing instruments/swapping stories or making up tales to entertain children and each other, reading, pick up basketball/football/soccer/hackeysack, ride horses, hunt, fish, ride horses, dirt bikes, cards, dominoes, bird watching, butterfly watching. Board games, video games, potlucks. Plenty of stuff to do, it’s just usually a slower-paced activity.

      • IamtheMorgz@lemmy.world
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        13
        arrow-down
        1
        ·
        29 days ago

        While this is indeed a list, it pales in comparison to what you can do in or near a large city.

        I enjoy a ton of things on your list but there’s stuff you just can’t easily do outside of a metro area. Especially stuff you need a specialized teacher for.

        • Maeve@kbin.earth
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          2
          arrow-down
          1
          ·
          28 days ago

          I’m in an online class now with an instructor who merely reads the chapter previously assigned as homework and won’t answer questions about anything other than their social activities. In an ivy League University area. Conversely an instructor in tiny little Katy, TX a couple of years ago and originally from Alabama gave plenty of homework, had well - planned classes, actually thoroughly explained independent reading material, and also could answer in-depth questions on an ELI 5 level. It’s more to do with personal ability, interest and integrity and actually caring about/liking the job.

          • TexasDrunk@lemmy.world
            link
            fedilink
            arrow-up
            5
            ·
            28 days ago

            Katy ain’t tiny. Well, in and of itself it is but it’s part of the Houston metro. I live off the Energy Corridor. I can be in Katy in a few minutes. I can also be at a dozen grocery stores, an insane number of taco trucks, any type of bar you’d care to visit, escape rooms, several gyms (I’ve recently started rock climbing in one again!), and shit loads of white collar industry for a good paying job within a few minutes. My first IT job making more than $125k was 10 minutes out of Katy. It’s suburban, not rural.

            • Maeve@kbin.earth
              link
              fedilink
              arrow-up
              3
              ·
              28 days ago

              I stand corrected! She said it was tiny, and at the time, I had plenty of work keeping me busy! Thanks for the information!

              • TexasDrunk@lemmy.world
                link
                fedilink
                arrow-up
                2
                ·
                28 days ago

                No worries! It’s less than half an hour to downtown Houston from here at this time of night and probably right at half an hour from Katy proper.

                I grew up in a true rural community of less than 1000. It was half an hour to the outskirts of the nearest city, and that place had 75,000 people. It was hours away from the outskirts of the closest REAL city, Dallas, with 1.3 million people. In contrast, Katy has 25,000 people and sits half an hour from the center of a city with 2.3 million people, nevermind the size of the metro area.

                So if she lived on the west side of Katy, she was describing the place as she saw it and that’s not on you. A small place as compared to Houston, and more on the rural side of the suburbs. I take my motorcycle out that way because if you leave headed west it’s pretty empty for a while.

      • afraid_of_zombies@lemmy.world
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        11
        arrow-down
        1
        ·
        29 days ago

        Literally all of that I can do in an urban area. Especially video games. I know this is shocking to you but us city people have video games. Jesus

      • stoly@lemmy.world
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        5
        arrow-down
        1
        ·
        28 days ago

        I don’t see anything about diversity, having access to embassies, museums, universities, large businesses, etc. I just heard you say that you like to drive to all those places and have only one grocery store close by.

        • Maeve@kbin.earth
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          2
          arrow-down
          2
          ·
          28 days ago

          I’m not accepting your words in my mouth. What you think you heard is your business. Enjoy your evening at symphony. I’ve very much enjoyed mine.

          • stoly@lemmy.world
            link
            fedilink
            arrow-up
            3
            arrow-down
            1
            ·
            28 days ago

            That was actually a bit surprising as a response. It makes me more sure about what I said previously.

        • Maeve@kbin.earth
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          1
          arrow-down
          2
          ·
          28 days ago

          It is until you realize (after a long adjustment period) that it’s pretty healthy, if you allow it to be.

  • Flying Squid@lemmy.world
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    74
    arrow-down
    25
    ·
    29 days ago

    This rural Pennsylvania town could get a huge population boom if they had a “we welcome queer people and migrants and we don’t tolerate hate” policy they announced to the world.

    But of course, that’s way too far for them.

    • kungen@feddit.nu
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      18
      arrow-down
      1
      ·
      29 days ago

      I don’t think rural towns are depopulating due to hate or discrimination… it’s mostly because of job prospects, no?

      • Confused_Emus@lemmy.world
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        27
        ·
        edit-2
        29 days ago

        Obviously my own experience is entirely anecdotal, but I think relevant to the point. I work 100% remotely, I just need a decent Internet connection. I currently live in a moderately sized city, and keeping up with the finances can be a struggle compared to the lower cost of rural living. However, I’m also a gay man, pro choice, I don’t care what two or more consenting adults do in the privacy of their home, etc. etc. etc. with all the usual liberal stuff.

        The job prospects aren’t why I left the rural southeastern US, and they aren’t the reason I’ll never go back there.

        These people were warned about the brain drain their bullshit would cause. I have no sympathy for them or their towns’ dwindling tax revenues.

        • Ragnarok314159@sopuli.xyz
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          1
          ·
          27 days ago

          Rural people also vote for the political party that helps to make sure that the devil high speed internet never comes to their town.

        • UltraGiGaGigantic@lemm.ee
          link
          fedilink
          English
          arrow-up
          1
          arrow-down
          28
          ·
          edit-2
          28 days ago

          I don’t care what two or more consenting adults do in the privacy of their home, etc. etc. etc.

          So they can put what drugs they want in their own body?

          with all the usual liberal stuff.

          Oh, never mind.

          • vaultdweller013@sh.itjust.works
            link
            fedilink
            arrow-up
            11
            ·
            28 days ago

            Most liberals I know are fine with legalizing most drugs so long as theyre regulated for safety reasons. But I cant tell if youre a dumb anarachist, a tankie or what so I dont get the point of your comment. Maybe elaborate if ya dont want to come across as… vapid I guess is the best word?

        • ikidd@lemmy.world
          link
          fedilink
          English
          arrow-up
          2
          arrow-down
          8
          ·
          29 days ago

          I don’t have kids at home anymore, but have online schools become a thing yet?

          Seems to me like that’s a huge opportunity to tailor school to every kid’s ability, though the socialization would suffer. But plenty of kids come out of homeschooling just fine.

          • Flying Squid@lemmy.world
            link
            fedilink
            arrow-up
            7
            arrow-down
            4
            ·
            29 days ago

            My daughter is in online school, a public school in fact, and a WFH job would be difficult for me to hold because I have to spend all day supervising her, which is exhausting enough, and the job would have to be one I could do in the evenings.

              • CherenkovBlue@lemmy.myserv.one
                link
                fedilink
                arrow-up
                3
                arrow-down
                1
                ·
                edit-2
                28 days ago

                They sure do post a lot on Lemmy for being a stay at home parent supervising their kid… 1670+ posts, 34500+ comments in 12 months. That’s about 4 posts and 95 comments per day.

              • Flying Squid@lemmy.world
                link
                fedilink
                arrow-up
                2
                arrow-down
                4
                ·
                28 days ago

                No, both because of that and because of a serious illness. But even if I didn’t have the illness, I would be doing two jobs and not getting paid for one of them.

      • Skydancer@pawb.social
        cake
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        17
        ·
        29 days ago

        There are two sides to the equation though - depopulation and repopulation. Hate and discrimination may not be causing (most of) the exodus, but inclusion and acceptance could be part of the solution. I’ve known more than a few people who have wanted to move to rural areas but have avoided them for exactly that reason. The braver ones have made the move, but only as a group able to support and protect each other.

      • Ragnarok314159@sopuli.xyz
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        2
        ·
        27 days ago

        It’s a combination of both. Young women don’t want to stay in these places because they all vote Republican and all republicans are hate filled bigots who view women as property.

        The women leave for greener pastures, and the young men are left with no job prospects and no one to date. They get up and leave as well.

        Since all these towns are hate filled trash heaps, no money gets invested into them. The farms are all corpo owned and don’t need the town, the Dollar General employs two people, and the used car lot has not sold anything in four years. There is nothing to do in these places except lie about being disabled (this is very different than having a real disability) sponge off the government, then watch Fox News all day and mald.