The Survival of Rural America

America’s rural areas are facing multiple challenges, including the well-known population changes, worsening health conditions, and access to goods and services.  

The number of residents in rural areas remained stable for almost 100 years; however, the proportion that this population represents in the overall U.S population has decreased markedly. U.S Census Bureau data indicates that this proportion went from almost 50% in 1910 to 19% in 2014. So while total population has been increasing during the last century, this growth has been concentrated mainly in non-rural populations.



Between 2010 and 2014 there was a change in this trend. According to the Economic Research Service of the U.S Department of Agriculture, every year during this period the population in non-metro counties decreased by 33,000 people. In 2015, however, this number dropped to roughly 4,000, suggesting the end of this exceptional population decline. This improvement in rural population coincided with employment growth in rural areas and improved overall economic conditions after the Great Recession.

As young people are moving to cities to look for job and educational opportunities, rural areas are not only becoming less populated but also older and whiter. One-quarter of seniors live in rural counties and the majority of the oldest counties in the U.S are rural, according to The Atlantic.  




Moreover, the life expectancy of rural Americans it is still lower than for those who live in urban areas. U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates that rural residents in the country have higher mortality rates from five preventable causes of death: suicide, heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease. Among the causes found by CDC researchers are higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and poorer access to health care.

Better health conditions for rural Americans do not seem so encouraging, as rural hospitals are slowly disappearing, motivated by the decline of population and local revenues.

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Daniela Oliva

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