Rural America is growing older faster than urban America; one in five rural Americans is older than 65, USDA says

Al Cross

Dec 1, 2022

Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky

"For the first time, more than one in five rural Americans is over the age of 65," reports Chuck Abbott of Successful Farming, citing a report from the Department of Agriculture report. “Rural America is aging more rapidly than the rest of the country, and the rural workforce is shrinking in number but becoming more racially diverse.”

For generations, rural populations “tended to be older than urbanites because of the long-standing pattern of young people moving to the city to look for jobs and older people retiring to the country, and the gap widened in recent years, when the metro population grew and rural areas held steady or declined," Abbott notes.

“The aging of the baby-boom generation … will continue to contribute to the loss of working-age adults through the end of this decade,” Abbott writes, citing the Rural America at a Glance report. “Some 46.1 million people, or 14% of the U.S. population, lived in rural counties in 2021, spread across 72% of the nation’s land mass. . . . In 2021, people 65 years and older made up over 20% of the nonmetro population for the first time, compared to 16% of the metro population.”

As rural areas have aged, they have also diversified. “Rural areas have become more diverse economically, with more workers in health care, hospitality and other service industries,” reports Abbott. “Since 2001, employment has declined in agriculture, retail and manufacturing. The number of government jobs was stable. Increased productivity was a major factor in the loss of agriculture and manufacturing jobs.”