Resource Library« Back to Search Results
This Rural Issues and Trends webinar series is offered by Ben Winchester with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Community Vitality.
It seems the rural story has already been told. Small towns keep getting smaller. Churches, schools, clinics, businesses, and now post offices, have closed their doors as the lucky few migrate out to the big cities. This deficit framework dominates how we discuss and envision our rural communities. However, the story of rural America since 1970 is rich and diverse, with positive trends occurring under the radar. Learn how these important positive changes have been occurring across the rural landscape that require us to rewrite the narrative of rural community change.
The population of rural America has changed significantly during the past 40 years, which is commonly referred to as the rural rebound. Nationally, the rural population has increased by 11% since 1970. While retirement and recreational counties account for the bulk of this population growth, the story of rural population change is interesting and nuanced – especially when we consider that 40% of all people move to a new home in any five year span. Since 1970 there have been newcomers aged 30-49 moving into small towns, which positively impacts our social and economic structures. At the same time, there is a new urbanity found across the rural landscape that changes how we look at urban-rural interactions. The next 15-20 years appears to be a great opportunity for American small towns, as a once tight housing supply begins to open up through the changing residential preferences of the retiring baby boomer generation. Overall, as we look to the future, the implications of these changes are positive ones for all of our small towns and open country places.
Rural Leadership Demands
How many people do we need to run our small towns? How many leaders are available? These simple, but related, questions are seldom (if ever) asked. There is an expectation that public offices and community organizations will be able to find enough people to serve year after year. These leadership demands of community can be compared to the number of residents (supply) available to serve in a community. This “social organizational infrastructure” is a critical component of rural communities and must be maintained. On one hand a large number of community organizations can reflect a healthy diversity of social options for residents. On the other hand it is a challenge for organizations that depend on the finite talent, time, volunteers, and financial resources of these residents to survive. The changing patterns of social involvement, and the impact this has on current community groups, will also be discussed.