Broadband Communities

SEP 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 7 In the last year, however, more people migrated to distant suburban and exurban districts at the expense of the urban cores and (slightly) distant rural counties. Suburban and exurban counties tend to have better broadband than truly rural areas. e shift from overheated urban cores went almost unnoticed. ese areas have the largest median family incomes, and until last year, they increased in population. Because the poorest rural residents tend to leave – whether entire families or young adults just starting their careers – their leaving may actually raise median family incomes in their home counties. I detailed that effect in late 2017, using data through the end of 2016 (income data is collected by calendar year). Rural counties (as measured by the census) are aging faster than the nation as a whole, especially in counties that depend mainly on agriculture. Rural counties in the Midwest are aging fastest of all. RURAL POPULATION LOSS SLOWED However, the trend of steady rural population loss slowed in 2017. e changes have been examined in great detail by Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Last year, overall growth resumed in the 1,976 counties of nonmetropolitan America. Johnson noted that the population gain was smaller than Pew suggested, just 33,000 (less than 0.1 percent, or an average of 16 individuals per rural county), "but it contrasts with a loss of 47,000 two years ago." He attributed the swing mainly to renewed domestic in-migration to rural counties near metropolitan areas. METRO-ADJACENT COUNTIES GAINED POPULATION at is not the whole story. No matter which definition of "rural" is used, metro-adjacent rural counties tend to grow faster than remote rural counties because metropolitan sprawl spills over into them. e deep recession that began in 2008 reversed this long-term trend, Johnson says, and for several years, metro-adjacent counties lost more population than remote rural counties. Between July 2016 and July 2017, metro-adjacent rural counties gained 57,000 residents from urban cores and migration from deeply rural counties because, Johnson says, "a domestic migration gain supplemented immigration and natural increase." SUMMARY OF FINDINGS 1 Other than in a few metro-adjacent counties, rural population fell by 24,000 to 33,000 (as measured or estimated) from mid-2016 to 2017. That loss is one-quarter to one-third the annual rate from 2010 to mid-2016. 2 There is still more rural population loss in states that restrict municipal broadband. However, the data are fuzzier. The trend is confirmed, but the precision is worse. 3 The precision is worse for normal reasons – sampled data are always a bit worse each year until the next complete census – and abnormal reasons as well, such as illegal immigrant populations' beginning to shift from rural areas before ICE enforcement ramped up last fall. The National Broadband Map data has also deteriorated. This has only a tiny effect on the most broadband-deprived counties (because zero broadband is zero) but adds to the fuzziness in counties that may have broadband in micropolises and none outside the little population centers. Chart by demographer Kenneth Johnson shows that within-country migration changed mainly for rural counties adjacent to metropolitan areas last year. But overall, deep-rural counties continued to lose population.

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