Net migration–the number of people who move into a place minus the number who move out–can reflect local economic conditions, but a new analysis of population loss in rural areas finds that other factors also can play a role. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers, high outmigration tends to be related to quality-of-life considerations in many nonmetropolitan counties–specifically, these counties are “remote, thinly settled, and lacking in scenic appeal for prospective residents or tourists.”
The report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, “Nonmetropolitan Outmigration Counties,” notes that nearly half of the counties outside metropolitan areas have lost population from 1988 to 2008, especially among young people with relatively high education and skill levels. The report used annual migration estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau as a starting point to identify counties that lost population, and added in other demographic, geographic and socioeconomic indicators. The report also cited data from a USDA survey of manufacturers that asked about specific reasons that these employers may avoid outmigration counties.