Econintersect: In the coming decades most of the U.S. population will be living in vast urban/suburban complexes that will meld together into a number megalopolis centers. The numbers coming out of the 2010 national census indicate that 84% of the population now lives in metro centers. Rural populations are becoming members of an endangered species. Young people are leaving many rural areas looking for better economic opportunity. Not only are the rural young adults fleeing to the metro complexes, but the children they have or will have in the future are lost to the rural communities as well.From an Associated Press article by Hope Yen:
More metro areas are booming into sprawling megalopolises. Barring fresh investment that could bring jobs, however, large swaths of the Great Plains and Appalachia, along with parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and North Texas, could face significant population declines.
Yen gives some more specific examples:
For instance in West Virginia, now with a median age of 41.3, the share of Americans 65 and older is now nearly double that of young adults 18-24 – 16 percent compared to 9 percent, according to census figures released Thursday. In 1970, the shares of the two groups were roughly equal at 12 percent.
“This place ain’t dead yet, but it’s got about half a foot in the grave,” said Bob Frees, 61, of Moundsville, W.Va., which now has a population of just over 9,000. “The big-money jobs are all gone. We used to have the big mills and the rolling plants and stuff that, and you could walk out of high school when you were 16 or 17 and get a $15-an-hour job.”
Some other factoids from the AP include:
- Delta Airlines recently announced ending service to 24 small airports.
- The U.S. Postal Service is going over plans to close thousands of rural post offices.
- Reduced support from state and federal sources is devastating to some small communities.
- In 1900 72% of the U.S. population was rural.
- As recently as 1950 more than half of the population was rural.
- In 2000 20% was rural.
- In 2010 the rural population fell to 16% of the total.
The percentage of the population living in cities is only 33%. The suburbs are the big population centers, with 51%. As the cities and suburbs meld together into megalopolises, the distinction between suburban and urban living will become blurred in the 21st century. Some examples of budding megalopolis centers given by the AP include Austin/ San Antonio, Tampa/Orlando, Phoenix/ Tucson and Washington/Baltimore/Richmond.
Some rural communities may follow the route traveled by many mining towns of 100 or more years ago and become virtual or actual ghost towns.
Hat tips to Russ Huntley and Roger Erikson.