By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
Rural America now accounts for just 16 percent of the nation's whole, an all-time low, according to demographic statistics. Here's why it's both good and bad.
Rural residents of the United States now account for just 16 percent of the nation's population, the lowest ever.
In comparison, the population share of rural America in 1910 was 72 percent.
Analysis of the latest 2010 census numbers by the Population Reference Bureau shows that the boundaries between city and country continue to blur as metropolises spill over into their surrounding countryside, the Associated Press reports.
The data were supplemented with calculations by University of Nevada-Las Vegas sociology professor Robert Lang and Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.
Hope Yen reports:
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 problem: too many children are growing up and leaving home for the big city without ever coming back. As a result, broad swaths of America are emptying out.
Consider this quote from Yen's report:
"Some of the most isolated rural areas face a major uphill battle, with a broad area of the country emptying out," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau, a research group in Washington, D.C. "Many rural areas can't attract workers because there aren't any jobs, and businesses won't relocate there because there aren't enough qualified workers. So they are caught in a downward spiral."
It's happening all over the nation as budgets tighten in the public and private sectors. Major airlines are consolidating routes and eliminating loss-leaders; the U.S. Postal Service is doing the same with thousands of branches and the federal government is doing its part to eliminate subsidies for communities that aren't producing economic growth, despite its best efforts.
It's an interesting trend. Unsurprisingly, large U.S. metro areas have seen consistent double-digit percentage gains in population. The fastest growth is occurring in small and medium-sized cities that, like satellites, surround larger ones.
At most risk: Great Plains states, which have seen a steady decrease in population since the first World War.
More statistics from the report:
- Since 2000, metro areas grew by 11 percent overall.
- Of the 10 fastest-growing places, all were small cities in the suburbs of large metro areas. Highlights: California, Arizona, Texas.
- The share of Americans living in suburbs has climbed to 51 percent, an all-time high.
- The share of Americans living in cities has increased to 33 percent.
The lesson here: we need to start thinking about population less as city vs. suburb or even state vs. state and more as fluctuating, interdependent zones (the U.S. Census Bureau calls them "combined statistical areas") that cross political and geographic boundaries, e.g. the close relationship between Austin and San Antonio, Tampa and Orlando, Phoenix and Tuscon, Washington and Baltimore.
The upside: more consistent regional planning and cooperation for large public works projects such as high-speed rail.
The challenge: how to direct investment and action evenly, despite the involvement of several municipal and state governments?
Illustration: National Center for Education Statistics
Jul 28, 2011
The main reason a larger fraction of the population lives in urban areas now than in 1910 has more to do with how we define urban than anything else. In 1910, any area outside of a major city was considered rural. Some areas inside the cities themselves were considered rural. There were no "suburbs". The inner and outer rings of our metropolitan statistical areas were rural. If you take this into consideration, the truth is that an actual number and the fraction of people living in areas previously designated as rural has actually increased. The actual number and fraction of people living in the cities has either decreased or remained stable. When you change the designation of a geographic area, it does not necessarily mean more people are now city dwellers. There are more people living in the heartland of America than ever, even if you only count 16% of the population as being there. Right now typing this I am 60 miles from three major US cities and I am surrounded by farmland and this area is not considered rural.
Well done! Thank you very much for professional templates and community edition sesli chat sesli sohbet
People love to bash on the rich and a favorite target are estate taxes. Estate taxes kill most small farms. Do some quick math on the impact of a low esate tax level with no exemption for farms as supported by the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. Take a 200 acre family farm with suburban sprawl feeding rising property values to around $80,000 an acre ( as my rural town is seeing even in a recession). When the owner dies the feds hit the family with a 50% tax based on 200 acres X $80,000. People who bash the rich just hit that grieving family with an $8 million tax bill. They just forced a small farm out of business because they wanted to punish the rich. That math applies to many small businesses as well. So maybe Walmart is not killing as many small stores as our government. Even at the higher and much maligned $3 million Bush tax rate you would still punish these small farm owners for being rich.
Let's face it: European-style farming and ranching has been an abject failure on the High Plains of North America (ever heard of the Dust Bowl?). Also, being from a small town in eastern Colorado, most of the Plains towns owed their existence to the railroad. Sadly, their reason for existence went away with the advent of diesel trains. Let's give the Plains back to the Native Americans who truly know what living with the land means.
Country living is great for healthy adults who aren't too old, and when things aren't going wrong. But when you need a hospital, or a medical specialist, or lab work, or quick medicine, or else you lose power, or your house is on fire, or your pipes burst, etc., THAT's when you suddenly realize how great urban areas are. Biologically, humans are social animals. We don't do well as lone wolves.
After living in CA where I shared the roads with millions each day I now I have moved to a massive metropolis of 156 total and couldn't be happier. I lost great restaurants so it made me learn how to get serious about cooking. I don't have great museums or libraries down the road but I've got the Internet. I haven't closed a drape in years and only the Hubble could sort of look in - maybe? There is the price of commuting to and from work for those who live in more rural areas, but the peace and quiet more than make up for the added drive. We actually drive less now then we did when we were living in the massive cities. We learned how to be wiser with our time, fuel and resources. Meanwhile we now have a little slice of mother earth and are delighted to experience this moment when we're getting to take care of our beautiful countryside and critters that life alongside. City life is a great place to visit, but I'll never move back. We live a lot slower and don't have all the goodies the big city offers, but I also don't have the heartburn either. Now please excuse me while I go play Mozart on our grand piano with something tasty our Waterford wine glasses. I didn't say we were roughing it, only modifying.
...in fact, some European countries (Switzerland, for example) is actually paying people to remain or move to rural areas.
Over a decade ago, I wandered into a small town in western Kansas. Its entire downtown was borded up. So was the Catholic school. I didn't see a public school. The Catholic Church and grain elevator/co-op seemed to be the only institutions still operating. What happened? The industrialization of agriculture is what happened. A hunderd years ago, there was a farm family for about every 80-160 acres. Now it takes a couple thousand acres to support a full-time farmer. Well, that town existed based on providing goods and services for the farm families in a twenty or so mile radius. With farms consolodating something like 25-1, there just aren't enough farm families to keep much but the grain elevator going, and I was told that even the church was on shaky ground. Seems like in western Kansas, there are whole counties with fewer than 2000 residents, and it would take something like all the residents in ten or so counties out there to fill up a university basketball arena.
That Plains land you happen to treat as a desert is actually some of the best farm land in the world. While eastern Colorado itself is a bit arid, it still is good land for growing wheat. As the global demand for food rises with global population, the midwest will experience a resurgence. It used to be that farmers were lucky to make a profit one year out of three or four because productivity kept going up. Many farmers did it out of love, and often took on part-time jobs wherever they could to make ends meet. Now farmers are beginning to see the tide turning. Prime farm land is rising in price, unlike homes in suburban areas. It won't be long and farming will again be a viable career.
I'm in my mid 50's, a disabled vet, and I get along quite well out in the country. The nearest town is 11 1/2 miles from my house. I almost died from a medical problem while at home. Once I called an ambulance I was on my way to the hospital 15 minutes later. When I lose power, my automatic emergency generator kicks in and powers up the whole house, and when I have pipes break, I call a plumber which is normally here in a reasonable amount of time (we're talking plumbers here... Now with all that being said, I can tell you all about the "Social" people living in the big cities. Those social "people" rob, pillage and rape on a daily basis. I know, I've lived in several big cities and watch the news. You can keep all that socializing, I'll be as happy as a clam out here in the middle of nowhere, where I don't have to worry about who's about to break into my home or steal my car, or any number of those things those "social" people do. I do quite well as a lone wolf, with the exception that I also own two Timberwolves......
When farms were 80 to 160 acres, such farms mostly only supported the families living on them. Starting in the late 1800s with the rise of agricultural science and industrialization allowing farms to mechanize, farms began to feed others, first the US and later the rest of the world. Today a typical farm is just like any moderate-sized business. It typically takes a couple of million in land, equipment, and livestock to make a go of it. Most farmers start out by renting a little land, and work their way up from there. Families with many kids have to deal with splitting up the inheritance, which makes it really hard to get started. Getting farm loans today is also a lot tougher because of the bank collapse in 2008. You are right about the consolidation of farms causing fewer farmers and hence less need for the services of small towns. Last I saw, only about 2% of the US population was directly involved in farming, and I believe that included migrant farm workers. That said, global food shortages promise that farming will once again be profitable. Farmers will just have to adjust to being further from services, but the life itself will probably make a comeback.