Young Families are Moving to Rural North Carolina

Census numbers show 80 counties gained those ages 30 to 39

Young Families are Moving to Rural North Carolina

Eighty counties (green) saw a net gain of residents ages 35-39 between 2000 and 2010 (Photo courtesy of The Rural Center).

Rural areas across the country have seen population declines over the past six consecutive years — the longest period on record, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But from 2000 to 2010, 76 North Carolina counties experienced an increase in the number of residents ages 30–39. During that time period, seven counties, all rural, saw a total decline in population. Of those, however, two (Mitchell and Hyde) had an increase in net migration in the 30–39 age group, according to Census data analysis by The NC Rural Center.

“This ‘brain gain’ reflects the recognition that rural places are great for young families, with formerly footloose children realizing that raising a family close to grandparents and other family members has benefits, along with other quality of life assets,” said Jason Gray, senior fellow, Research & Policy at the center.

A look at migration into counties by those ages 35–39 offers an even more positive picture, with a total 80 counties experiencing a net gain (see map). The phenomenon emerged through research of similar trends by the University of Minnesota Extension service.

“So what’s happened since 2010? We know that 48 counties have lost population between 2010 and 2016,” Gray explained. “We suspect that a good number of those 48 counties are seeing net in-migration within the 30–39 age cohort.”

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