Rural America in the 2000s: Age

Rural America — like the rest of the country — is getting older. But it's not that simple. In some parts of the Great Plains, the percentage of young people is growing!

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America has gotten older since 2000 — and rural America has gotten older than its city and exurban neighbors.

As with other demographic changes in the nation’s 2,038 rural counties between 2000 and 2009, place still matters. Some regions saw their share of the young increase while other parts of the country had the percentage of their populations under 25 go down.

The map above shows whether a rural county gained or lost its share of those under 25 years of age. Red means the percentage of those under 25 decreased in that county between 2000 and 2009. Green means the percentage of the county’s under 25 population increased.

(Figures used in this story are projections from EMSI, Inc., an economic modeling company, based on Census Bureau data. To see a larger version of the maps in this story, click on ‘em.)

Most of rural America is red. For that matter, most of America should be red. The percentage of the population that was under 25 dropped in urban, rural and exurban America. (See chart on the next page.)

The map above does have some striking exceptions to the rural-is-getting-older story. Counties in West Texas, the Panhandle and Oklahoma showed patches of green, indicating an increasing percentage of the population being young. So did isolated counties in the Mountain West.

Urban, rural and exurban counties all got older this decade. The chart below shows the shift in the population under 45 this decade. Rural counties had the lowest percentage of young people in 2000, and that continues to be the case in 2009.


Urban counties have the largest share of population under 45 — and urban counties saw a smaller shift in their young population than either rural or exurban counties.

Roberto Gallardo
This map shows the change in the share of over 65 population in each rural county between 2000 and 2009. Red counties had a smaller percentage of residents in this age category. Green counties had a larger share. Click on the map to see a larger version.

The map above shows the change in each rural county’s share of the old, those over 65. Green means the percentage of those over 65 increased since 2000. Red means the share of older folks decreased.

Most of rural America is green. The exceptions can be found in the Great Plains and parts of Central Texas, both of which have a large number of counties that reported decreasing percentages of older residents.

Rural America has a larger percentage of its population over 45 than either urban or exurban counties. Urban counties show the smallest increase in this population. See chart below.


Here are the fifty rural counties with the greatest decline in their share of residents under 25 years of age from 2000 to 2009, according to these projections from Census data.


And here are the fifty rural counties with the greatest increases in their share of residents older than 65 years of age from 2000 to 2009.





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