At a time when many agricultural communities are facing declining school enrollments, rural communities with scenic and recreational amenities are attracting more adults with children, according to a new research brief.
It’s not clear what impact the trend might have on schools in those areas, but perhaps there are hopeful signs in the data for some rural districts.
The country’s 299 nonmetropolitan recreational counties have seen an influx of residents between 2000 and 2010, for a total of 8.2 million residents in 2010. While those areas are appealing to an older demographic, but they also are attractive to families with school-aged children, according to the brief.
The research report from theCarsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., didn’t delve into the implications for schools based on the migration patterns. But it seems to reason that growth in the number of adults with children would mean a student increase for local schools; the influx includes adults 30- to 49-years-old with children ages 5 to 14.
Still, many rural areas are losing population and consolidating schools. The report characterized migration patterns in rural areas into two categories: counties traditionally dependent on agriculture and losing residents, and those with rich recreational amenities that are gaining residents.
The 403 rural farm counties had 3 million residents in 2010, and they experienced the greatest loss in young adults (ages 25 to 29). That loss “has long been a significant policy concern because it represents a loss of human resources and diminishes the potential for future growth,” according to the report.
The report said these patterns have important implications for rural and urban communities in terms of policies and practices aimed at developing sustainable communities.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.