Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Can Health Care Services Attract Retirees and Contribute to the Economic Sustainability of Rural Places?

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Can Health Care Services Attract Retirees and Contribute to the Economic Sustainability of Rural Places?

Article excerpt

The search for engines to power rural economic growth has gone beyond the traditional boundaries of the food and fiber sector to industries such as tourism and to schemes such as attracting metropolitan workers to commuter communities with rural amenities. A group that has been somewhat overlooked is retirees, who may wish to trade in urban or suburban lifestyles for a more peaceful rural retirement. An industry that has been neglected is the health care industry, which is the most rapidly growing industry nationally and of particular interest to retirees and aging populations. This paper examines the importance of rural health care services in attracting migrants age 65+ to rural counties in Michigan. Results indicate that the number of health care workers has a positive effect on net in-migration, and that this effect is large and statistically significant for the 70+ age group. Implications for rural development strategies are discussed.

Key Words: elder migration, health care, rural development

In recent years the search for an economically sustainable basis for rural communities has moved away from reliance on traditional agriculture or resource extraction as the primary engine of economic growth, or even sustainability.1 Robinson, Lyson, and Christy (2002) argue that globalization increases the difficulty of creating an economically viable rural community based on traditional agriculture and markets. Barkley and Wilson (1992) examine alternative agriculture (including value added) as an engine of rural economic growth, but find that the possibilities for income and employment generation are limited. Kirn, Marcouiller, and Deller (2005) emphasize that many of the resources that provide the basis for extractive industries also serve as rural amenities-for example, forests. A literature is emerging on amenity-based rural sustainability (e.g., Che 2003, Bukenya, Gebremedhin, and Shaeffer 2003, Nzaku and Bukenya 2005). Complementary to this literature are investigations into how rural amenities can attract migrants to the area. For example, Renkow (2003) suggests that the emergence of a labor force choosing to live in rural areas to take advantage of rural amenities and commuting to metropolitan jobs can have positive effects on rural economies. Goetz and Rupasingha (2004) find relationships between health amenities, natural amenities, and migration.

As baby boomers retire, they may seek more bucolic lifestyles and move to areas with high levels of rural amenities (Domazlicky 2002). The majority of the 77.5 million baby boomers in the United States intend to buy a new home for retirement (Klebba 2005). The location choice for this retirement home is influenced by the availability of community amenities such as lifestyle or climate, and by personal amenities such as proximity to children or other family members (Klebba 2005). Health concerns may be an issue for some retirees, and come into play when making the migration and location decisions (Haas and Serow 1993). Shields, Deller, and Stallmann (2001) suggest that public investment in health services can provide an amenity that will induce retirees to migrate to rural areas.

Health care service for the elderly is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. For example, over the decade ending in March 2006, employment in community care services for the elderly increased nearly 47 percent. Over the same period, total health care services employment increased by 25 percent, total non-farm employment increased by 13 percent, employment in retail trades rose 11 percent (more than one-half of which was in health care retail), and manufacturing employment fell by 17 percent (between 1995 and 2005 the number of farms decreased 3.4 percent).2 As the nation ages, the need for health care increases (Center for Health Workforce Studies 2006); increasing obesity in all age groups is also increasing the demand for health care (Flegal et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.