Is Rural America Struggling? provides an excellent summary of the economic and population issues facing rural America. Key quote:
... rural America’s job growth is stagnant and the population is in decline. In fact, it’s the first time such a population decline has been recorded in the nation’s rural counties.
The article chart below shows the long term relative decline in non-metor (rural) U.S. population versus metro areas.
Interestingly enough, even rural resort areas are seeing slower population growth. Key quote:
People are trading the comfort of the suburbs for the hustle and bustle of the city. “Population growth in high-amenity areas like beaches, mountains, and skiing areas has slowed,” ... Historically, migration to scenic areas of the country has bolstered rural America’s population, but that influence is weakening.
This is clearly part of the much broader shift towards urbanization. But the decline in rural population is also driven in part by one of our favorite trends - the paradox of place.
This paradox is the Internet and connective technologies have resulted in place and location being both more and less important. Place is less important because high fidelity connective technologies allow people to communicate with anyone, anywhere.
But place has become more important as people and companies realize locating in cities leads to more interaction and innovation. This is why more jobs are moving to cities.
We don't expect the shift to cities to change anytime soon. Because of this, we don't expect rural populations to rebound over the next decade.