In-Migration Peaks in Child-Raising Years

The return of young families to rural counties is a bright spot in rural population trends.


report from the Economic Research Service of USDA theorizes that this jump comes from people who are just starting to settle down, find a spouse, and raise a family.

And one  reason they are returning is because they consider their home counties to be good places to raise kids:

Interviews with rural return migrants showed that most came home with spouses and brought young children with them or soon started families. Conversations about returning centered on the value of family connections for child-raising in a small town environment. Return migrants described other aspects of home that bolstered their decision to move back, including schools with smaller class sizes, access to outdoor recreation, and shorter trips for work and shopping.

The ERS report says this information has implications for how communities attempt to retain or attract young people.

Stemming rural population loss may depend less on retaining young adults after high school than on attracting them back as they settle down to start careers and raise children.

This discussion is significant for rural counties, which have seen a net decline in overall population for each of the past four years – an unprecedented span. Reversing that decline is the fond hope of many a rural community. This study shows that the most opportune moment to encourage this return to smaller towns and rural areas is when young people most need their extended family a supportive community — when they start having kids.