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Abstract

Population loss through net outmigration is endemic to many rural areas. Over a third of nonmetro counties lost at least 10 percent of their population through net outmigration over 1988-2008. Some of these counties have had very high poverty rates, substantial loss in manufacturing jobs, and high unemployment. Lack of economic opportunity was likely a major factor in their high outmigration. Most high net outmigration counties, however, are relatively prosperous, with low unemployment rates, low high school dropout rates, and average household incomes. For these counties, low population density and less appealing landscapes distinguish them from other nonmetro counties. Both types of outmigration counties stand out on two measures, indicating that quality-of-life factors inhibit inmigration: a lack of retirees moving in and local manufacturers citing the area’s unattractiveness as a problem in recruiting managers and professionals.

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