Rural depopulation

Robert Wuthnow

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Total U.S. population grew from 3.9 million in 1790 to 23.2 million in 1850 and then climbed to 76.2 million in1900. During these years, the rural population defined as residents not living in places of 2,500 or more increased from 3.7 million to almost 46 million. Contrary to a widely held perception of rural decline, the rural population continued to grow during the twentieth century. Fourteen million more people lived in rural areas in 2010 than did in 1900 a 28 percent increase. Only in relative terms did rural America decline from 60 percent of the population in 1900 to 19 percent in 2010.1 Rural depopulation refers to an absolute decline in the number of people living in areas defined as rural by the U.S. Census Bureau. Net population loss of this kind can occur when out-migration exceeds in-migration, when deaths exceed births, or both. Net population loss in rural areas can be measured and compared among states, counties, and towns. Depopulation also refers to population loss that occurs within particular social and demographic categories, such as young people, unskilled workers, or college graduates. Depopulation within such categories is of interest because of its implications for the social and economic well-being of rural areas, even though it may not be associated with overall population decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge History of Rural America
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781135054984
ISBN (Print)9780415832922
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Rural depopulation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this