Across rural America during the last 30 years, agri-business monopolies put small farmers out of business, factories closed and once-valuable natural resources were all but replaced with alternatives.
And then the Great Recession of 2008 hit, dealing another crushing blow.
Just a generation ago, many urban areas, not rural communities, were cauldrons of poverty, crime and broken families. Today, the trend has reversed. America’s small, rural towns and their inhabitants are now in turmoil.
Measuring quality-of-life indicators that include stable families, educational attainment, teen births, reliance on welfare, unemployment, chronic disease and opioid addiction levels, among others, rural America is on a downward trend.
A Wall Street Journal report found that, in 2013, more people died in the most sparsely populated US counties than were born. Moreover, rural residents are dying younger than the rest of the population.
That hasn’t happened since comprehensive records began to be kept in the 1930s. Rural US population has declined for five straight years.
Overall, small towns in the central US are locked in a tailspin of unemployment, poverty and family breakdown that has long plagued inner cities.
TRENDPOST: As cities become overpopulated and too expensive, rural areas within striking distance of airports, major cities and surrounded by natural beauty will again become appealing, especially for young families.
States, cities and towns that develop new economic models to promote themselves as tourist destinations, attractive bedroom communities, specialized education centers or other niches can realize population and economic growth.