Magazine article American Banker

Population Shift to Rural America Passing Farm Areas by, Study Shows

Magazine article American Banker

Population Shift to Rural America Passing Farm Areas by, Study Shows

Article excerpt

Despite the highest overall rural population growth rates in 20 years, many of the nation's agricultural areas aren't sharing the gains, according to a recent study.

What two demographers reported last month confirms what many agricultural lenders already knew: There aren't enough younger farmers to replace an aging customer base.

"Agriculture counties are still the most likely to be experiencing outmigration," said Kenneth M. Johnson, a sociology professor at Chicago's Loyola University, who co-authored the rural population report. "It's been going on for a long time, which has tended to distort the age structure." Mr. Johnson and Calvin Beale, a senior demographer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, studied Census Bureau data to determine rural population trends so far this decade.

Overall, they found that rural population increases during the time studied, April 1990 to July 1995, approached the record gains of the early 1970s, after sharp declines in the 1980s.

More than 75% of the nation's 2,304 rural counties were growing, compared with 45% in the 1980s, thanks to an influx of former urban dwellers coupled with more people staying in rural areas, they concluded. Although rural population grew by 1.3 million in all of the 1980s, it jumped 2.6 million in the first five years of this decade, they found.

The fastest-growing rural areas included many retirement destinations, such as the Sun Belt, coasts, and Upper Great Lakes. …

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