Last week, findings from Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Stateline” blog found that rural countries saw sizable growth in 2016 and 2017. This marked the first time since 2010 where rural areas saw a noticeable spike in population growth. This blog was founded in 1998 on the pretext of “daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy” rooted in “non-partisanship, objectivity, and integrity.”
The study also found that rural areas grew approximately 33,000 residents nationwide during this time frame, despite losing over 15,000 residents in the year prior. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines rural areas as “counties outside cities and their suburbs.” They cited Jackson County, Georgia, as a prime example of a rural area benefitting from this population shift:
One of those growing areas is Jackson County, Georgia, a rural county that is convenient to Atlanta and Athens, where farm-equipment manufacturing and distribution center jobs have helped fuel a population increase of more than 2,500, almost 4 percent, after a population loss as recently as 2012. In the years since, the county’s population growth has been on a steady upward trend. The county added 428 people in 2013 and 1,603 people in 2016, leading up to this year’s larger boost.
The census data also found population growth in major urban outposts has started to decrease. It stated that growth in urban counties “dropped back to about 900,000 between 2015 and 2016 and to a little more than 700,000 for the period covered in today’s release of census data.” Chicago’s infamous Cook County lost the most residents between 2016 and 2017—totaling 20,000 residents. These findings also mentioned that urban counties surrounding Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit and Brooklyn had seen a loss of residents during this time, as well.
Over the years, people have been gravitating towards metropolitan areas to seek more opportunities. Politically speaking, urban outposts tend to be managed by Democrats and more secular in their worldview. This also has presented problems for those in the fishing and hunting industries, as increased urbanization—with 80.7% percent of the U.S. population now residing in or close to major cities (2010 U.S. Census)—has been shown to contribute to declines in participation.
Will cities be too big to succeed to succeed? Time will tell. In the meantime, it’s encouraging to see rural areas—the bread and butter of America—make a timely comeback.