Declining Rural Life, Despite Technology Improvements

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John Burns

September 2, 2016

Only half as many households as normal choose to live in rural areas these days. Using our definitions, only 8% of household growth occurred in rural areas over the last five years, compared to the usual 17% of growth over the prior 30 years. Over the last five years, urban captured 21% of growth compared to the 30-year norm of 8%.

Now, I know that many cool, creative jobs are in urban areas, that big cities have spent billions redeveloping their downtowns into entertainment hubs, and millennials who are delaying families can hold off on the need to live in a good school district longer. However, consider the following:

  • More people than ever are retiring, and retiree growth has historically been strong in affordable, rural areas.
  • More knowledge workers than ever can telecommute from anywhere (we need a new term that doesn’t use the prefix tele in it), including “retirees” who continue to work part-time.
  • Online shopping has brought the best of retail to everyone with a postal address.

Will rural living make a comeback? We are not forecasting that it will, but I worry that we could be wrong.

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John Burns
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