Migration Drives Population Loss

[imgbelt img=compchange.png]One more rural population story: The loss of nonmetro population in the last three years has been the result of migration, not births and deaths. That means rural populations could recover – if the economy does.


Notice how the green line – “net migration” – parallels the rise and fall of the black line precisely. The green line measures the
population change that results from people moving in and out of nonmetropolitan

The red line – “natural increase” – is on a path of its own.
It’s declining slowly over time with no rapid changes. This line shows the
population change that is the result of births and deaths, as opposed to

“While natural change [the red line] has gradually trended
downward over time, net migration rates [green line] tend to fluctuate in
response to economic conditions,” the ERS reports. “Thus, this period of rural
population loss may be short-lived depending on the course of the economic

The implication is that when times are good, folks move to
rural areas. And when the economy hits the skids, as it has since 2007, more
people leave nonmetro counties than arrive. When the economy changes, perhaps
the migration pattern will, too.

The question, of course, is when and how the nonmetro
economy will recover. The Daily Yonder’s analysis
of employment numbers
shows that nonmetro counties still had fewer
jobs at the end of 2013 than they did in 2007. That job loss was concentrated
in smaller nonmetro counties – ones that did not have a city with more than
10,000 residents.