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Rural Depopulation in a Rapidly Urbanizing America

by Daniel T. Lichter; Kenneth M. Johnson

Feb 6, 2019

This brief examines demographic trends in rural America, a region often overlooked in a nation dominated by urban interests. Yet, 46 million people live in rural areas that encompass 72 percent of the land area of the United States. "Rural America" is a simple term that describes a remarkably diverse collection of people and places. It encompasses vast agricultural regions that are among the most productive in the world; sprawling exurban areas just beyond the urban fringe; successful ultra-modern industrial, energy, and warehousing complexes strung along rural interstates; regions where coal, ore, oil, gas, and timber are extracted, processed, and shipped; struggling factory towns facing intense global competition; and fast-growing recreational areas situated near scenic mountains and lakes.