Rural Population Grows 2000-2007, But Slower Than National Average

The fastest population growth in the United States took place in the exurbs, the in-between counties that aren't urban yet but aren't fully rural either.

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This map shows the gain and loss of population in rural counties due to domestic migration. Yellow counties had more people move to cities than moved in. Red and blue counties had more people move in from cities than left.

The population in rural counties increased 2.4 percent from 2000 to 2007, one-third the growth rate of the entire United States (7.2%). The fastest growth rates in the country during this period, according to U.S. Census figures, were in the nation’s exurban regions.

Thirteen states lost rural population from 2000 to 2007. The group of states losing rural population were concentrated in the Great Plains. The 13 states that lost population were Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska, West Virginia, New York, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Indiana, New Mexico and Alaska.

The states with the largest increases in numbers of rural residents were primarily clustered in the Southeast. Florida and North Carolina each added 148,000 rural residents from 2000 to 2007. Georgia had an increase of 124,000 rural residents.

(For a full listing of states and their change in rural population during the first seven years of this century, see the bottom of this story.)

Only two states lost population overall during this seven year period — Louisiana and North Dakota. Louisiana saw its population drop more than 175,000 from 2000 to 2007, largely as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the state in 2005. All of those losses came from metropolitan areas of the state. Both rural and exurban parts of Louisiana gained people.

Only two states lost urban population — Louisiana and West Virginia. (Urban counties would include both central cities and inner suburbs.) Nationally, urban population increased 7.2%.

And no state lost population in exurban counties. (These are counties that are close to cities, but have some rural characteristics.) The growth rate in exurban America was nearly 11% in this 7-year stretch, more than four times the growth rate for rural counties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found from July 2005 to July 2006, rural counties grew because of an increase in domestic migration. More people were moving into rural counties from metro areas than were going the other direction. Most of that migration into rural areas in that year took place in the West, the Texas Hill Country, Florida and Northern Virginia. (See map above.) Farming areas continued to see a loss of population due to migration.

Below are the 48 states ranked by their increase in rural population from 2000 to 2007. (Rhode Island and New Jersey have no rural counties.)

Rural Pop Change Rank State Percent Change 2000-07 Total Change 2000-07
1 Florida 14.7% 148,573
2 North Carolina 5.8% 148,527
3 Georgia 7.5% 124,339
4 Tennessee 5.1% 80,057
5 Arizona 11.9% 70,450
6 Texas 2.4% 70,124
7 Washington 7.8% 57,668
8 Colorado 7.6% 47,771
9 South Carolina 4.2% 42,921
10 Hawaii 12.6% 42,406
11 Kentucky 2.4% 42,379
12 Missouri 2.5% 37,629
13 California 4.7% 37,582
14 Virginia 3.5% 37,104
15 Nevada 16.2% 36,688
16 Montana 5.7% 33,647
17 Oregon 4.0% 32,413
18 Idaho 6.6% 32,222
19 Wisconsin 2.0% 30,426
20 New Hampshire 6.5% 30,049
21 Utah 10.6% 27,888
22 Delaware 17.7% 27,653
23 Maryland 8.8% 24,260
24 Minnesota 1.6% 22,728
25 Oklahoma 1.6% 20,398
26 Pennsylvania 1.0% 19,767
27 Wyoming 5.5% 19,085
28 Michigan 0.9% 17,164
29 Alabama 1.1% 14,630
30 Connecticut 4.8% 14,027
31 Maine 1.8% 9,863
32 Louisiana 0.5% 5,243
33 Ohio 0.2% 5,224
34 Vermont 1.0% 3,955
35 Massachusetts 6.2% 1,509
36 Alaska -0.3% -778
37 New Mexico -0.1% -1,000
38 Indiana -0.4% -5,410
39 South Dakota -1.7% -7,537
40 Arkansas -0.8% -9,348
41 Mississippi -0.6% -10,521
42 New York -0.8% -13,145
43 West Virginia -2.1% -17,113
44 Nebraska -3.0% -22,855
45 North Dakota -7.3% -26,326
46 Kansas -3.4% -35,719
47 Illinois -2.2% -36,882
48 Iowa -3.4% -46,519

Here is the ranking of the states according to the change in exurban population from 2000 to 2002. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii and Wyoming have no exurban counties.

 

Exurban Pop Change Rank State Percent Change 2000-07 Total Change 2000-07
1 Texas 19.6% 410,569
2 Georgia 22.2% 291,956
3 North Carolina 13.7% 211,922
4 Arizona 37.9% 175,767
5 Virginia 12.6% 158,043
6 Arkansas 15.9% 119,091
7 South Carolina 8.5% 104,701
8 Missouri 11.1% 99,165
9 Alabama 8.2% 97,202
10 Tennessee 10.6% 94,219
11 Minnesota 11.7% 83,598
12 Kentucky 10.4% 77,156
13 Mississippi 11.4% 58,915
14 Michigan 5.5% 56,936
15 Wisconsin 7.4% 52,523
16 Oregon 27.7% 44,097
17 California 15.3% 42,794
18 Ohio 3.7% 42,043
19 Maryland 15.1% 40,919
20 Oklahoma 7.7% 40,023
21 West Virginia 7.7% 33,675
22 Indiana 3.9% 32,796
23 Louisiana 6.4% 30,208
24 Florida 15.6% 27,375
25 Iowa 10.1% 24,127
26 New Jersey 5.5% 23,702
27 Pennsylvania 2.0% 23,356
28 Alaska 38.0% 23,292
29 Maine 4.8% 22,659
30 Illinois 4.5% 16,115
31 South Dakota 18.8% 14,201
32 New Hampshire 8.3% 9,348
33 Utah 18.6% 8,399
34 New Mexico 6.4% 8,313
35 New York 0.8% 8,278
36 Idaho 10.1% 7,123
37 Colorado 9.5% 6,566
38 Kansas 2.9% 6,167
39 Washington 6.8% 5,228
40 Vermont 6.1% 3,217
41 Nebraska 3.2% 2,738
42 Nevada 23.4% 794
43 North Dakota 2.5% 623
44 Montana 1.8% 169
45 Massachusetts 0.1% 67

This final list shows the change in urban population from 2000 to 2007 by state. The list includes Washington, D.C.

 

Urban Pop Change Rank State Percent Change 2000-07 Total Change 2000-07
1 California 7.9% 2,601,191
2 Texas 16.2% 2,571,867
3 Florida 14.1% 2,092,917
4 Arizona 23.6% 961,906
5 Georgia 18.1% 942,002
6 North Carolina 16.5% 651,270
7 Nevada 30.0% 529,643
8 Washington 10.1% 511,407
9 Colorado 14.0% 505,917
10 Illinois 4.4% 454,022
11 Virginia 9.3% 442,718
12 Utah 19.5% 375,874
13 New York 2.0% 326,139
14 Tennessee 9.1% 293,160
15 Maryland 5.4% 256,679
16 Oregon 10.1% 249,546
17 South Carolina 14.0% 248,075
18 New Jersey 3.1% 247,868
19 Indiana 6.2% 237,418
20 Minnesota 6.1% 171,816
21 Idaho 22.6% 166,104
22 Wisconsin 4.9% 155,016
23 Missouri 4.6% 146,410
24 New Mexico 14.1% 143,556
25 Kansas 8.2% 117,131
26 Pennsylvania 1.2% 108,615
27 Oklahoma 6.5% 106,241
28 Massachusetts 1.6% 99,082
29 Iowa 6.3% 84,114
30 Nebraska 9.7% 83,425
31 Connecticut 2.7% 82,717
32 Kentucky 5.2% 80,170
33 Alabama 3.5% 68,919
34 Ohio 0.8% 66,510
35 Michigan 0.8% 59,278
36 Delaware 8.5% 53,511
37 Arkansas 6.7% 51,654
38 New Hampshire 6.2% 40,645
39 South Dakota 14.7% 34,706
40 Alaska 9.9% 34,032
41 Hawaii 3.4% 29,445
42 Mississippi 3.8% 25,733
43 North Dakota 9.0% 23,218
44 Montana 7.2% 21,850
45 District of Columbia 2.8% 16,233
46 Wyoming 6.7% 9,963
47 Maine 3.7% 9,762
48 Rhode Island 0.9% 9,513
49 Vermont 3.6% 5,255
50 West Virginia -2.4% -12,871
51 Louisiana -7.4% -211,223
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