Poor economy opportunity for rural areas?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Is there a bright spot in our dark economy?

That might be a bit of a stretch.

But news from the Census Bureau last week might mean that the brakes are being applied on one of rural Nebraska's biggest problems.

The problem?


Nearly every county outside Nebraska's major population centers or along the Interstate has shown a decline in population -- especially among younger people.

There's no guarantee Nebraska will follow the national trend, but if it does, we might be in for a break.

The Census Bureau reported that the number of people who changed residences declined to 35.2 million from March 2007 to March 2008, the lowest number since 1962, when the nation had 120 million fewer people.

Americans' mobility rate, which has been dropping for decades, fell to 11.9 percent in 2008, down from 13.2 percent in 2007 and setting a post-World War II record low.

The number of people who moved between states reached only half the rate recorded at the beginning of this decade.

Not only does a lower mobility rate mean fewer people may be available for jobs that do open; it also means money for businesses like movers, remodelers and people who sell furniture and appliances.

The economy is probably the main reason of course -- few people will chance a move unless they are certain a solid job opportunity awaits.

But many other factors have been pressuring the mobility rate downward over the years.

For one, home ownership rates have risen, and people who own are less likely to move than renters.

And, as two-income families become the norm rather than the exception, finding employment for both spouses in a new location becomes more difficult.

Plus, the median age of Americans is climbing, and the older we are, the less likely we are to move.

Taken all together, perhaps we have a better shot at keeping our neighbors in rural Nebraska living here.

At the same time, however, economic development efforts aimed at attracting more workers to move here will be that much more difficult.

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