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Rural demographics in every state

  • Rural demographics in every state

    Amid the shutdowns and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, country life has started to take on a new appeal. Many city dwellers, cooped up in pricey shoebox apartments with nowhere to go for months, have been daydreaming about moving to an area with a lower cost of living, spacious homes, and lots of beautiful nature to explore. Some—mainly the wealthy—have already fled the glass-and-concrete jungles of the country's big cities for more bucolic locales, either temporarily or permanently.

    So what can big city residents expect from the rural communities they're thinking of calling home? For one, rural counties tend to be significantly less racially diverse than their urban counterparts (although that has been changing slightly over the last 20 years), according to the Pew Research Center. Less-populated areas of the country also have a higher percentage of people over the age of 64 years old than major cities. And people who are used to seeing big cities get more crowded year after year are likely to experience the exact opposite in rural towns, many of which have experienced stagnating or declining populations in recent decades.

    While big trends tell one story, no two states are the same when it comes to the demographics of their rural communities. To learn more about the rural population in every state, Stacker used the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP)'s list of rural counties and census tracts within non-rural counties, which comprise rural areas, along with demographic data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 2018 five-year estimates. It's important to note that when national definitions of rural areas are used, the populations of some small states (such as Rhode Island), which are relatively rural compared to other states, may be misrepresented. Finally, Stacker also looked at recent news reports from various local and regional newspapers, public radio stations, and national publications to learn more about the most significant issues affecting rural communities in each state.

    Whether you're a die-hard urbanite who's curious about country living or someone who lives in a remote town and want to know more about your community, continue reading to learn more about the rural demographics of all 50 states.

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  • Alabama

    - Total rural population: 1.4 million (28.8% of state, #21 state with the largest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 307,887 (22.0% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 256,884 (18.4% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 48.9% men, 51.1% women
    - Race demographics: 74.1% White, 21.4% Black or African American, 0.8% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 4.7% Hispanic/Latino, 95.3% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon recently formed a committee to enhance the efficiency and resources of volunteer fire departments, which rural areas of the state heavily rely on to address emergencies, according to Amy Passaretti of The Outlook. The people who run the fire departments in rural counties primarily consist of young folks and retired adults.

  • Alaska

    - Total rural population: 644,163 (87.2% of state, #1 state with the largest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 160,870 (25.0% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 70,058 (10.9% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 52.1% men, 47.9% women
    - Race demographics: 65.5% White, 3.1% Black or African American, 13.2% Native American or Alaska Native, 6.8% Asian, 1.3% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 6.8% Hispanic/Latino, 93.2% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    The Alaska Aviation Advisory Board is trying to figure out how to bring air service to remote communities in the state after its largest rural air carrier, RavnAir Group, went bankrupt earlier this year, according to Nathaniel Herz of Alaska Public Media. It had previously served rural hub communities, including St. Mary's, Kenai, Homer, and the island of St. Paul.

  • Arizona

    - Total rural population: 805,774 (11.6% of state, #10 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 176,710 (21.9% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 167,241 (20.8% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 52.2% men, 47.8% women
    - Race demographics: 69.8% White, 1.5% Black or African American, 21.6% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.7% Asian, 0.2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 24.8% Hispanic/Latino, 75.2% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    Cities in Central Arizona have been rapidly growing while simultaneously suffering a long-term drought. As a result, cities are eyeing the state's rural communities as a potential source for additional water supply, according to Bret Jaspers of KJZZ.

  • Arkansas

    - Total rural population: 1.2 million (40.8% of state, #11 state with the largest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 274,988 (22.5% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 236,436 (19.4% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 49.3% men, 50.7% women
    - Race demographics: 80.8% White, 13.9% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 5.5% Hispanic/Latino, 94.5% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    The digital divide in rural areas of Arkansas may soon be narrowing—an important step in ensuring people have the internet access they need to work and learn from home. AT&T recently announced it's extending high-speed internet service to an additional 41,000 homes and businesses in rural parts of the state, according to Kyle Massey of Arkansas Business.

  • California

    - Total rural population: 2.4 million (6.0% of state, #6 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 543,986 (23.0% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 412,125 (17.4% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 51.4% men, 48.6% women
    - Race demographics: 79.8% White, 2.5% Black or African American, 2.0% Native American or Alaska Native, 2.3% Asian, 0.2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 34.5% Hispanic/Latino, 65.5% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    While California's largest cities have been hit hard by the coronavirus, some of its rural counties have remained relatively unscathed throughout the pandemic. As of July 13, none of Modoc County's estimated 9,000 residents have had COVID-19, according to Amy Graff of SFGate. There's been one case of the disease in Sierra County and two cases in Trinity County.

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  • Colorado

    - Total rural population: 802,444 (14.5% of state, #14 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 167,607 (20.9% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 137,993 (17.2% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 52.2% men, 47.8% women
    - Race demographics: 90.8% White, 1.3% Black or African American, 1.7% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 20.6% Hispanic/Latino, 79.4% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    Funds from the federal government have provided a lifeline to hospitals and primary care centers in rural Colorado during the pandemic, according to Patty Nieberg of the Associated Press/Report for America. More than a dozen such facilities applied for loans from the federal government to help make payroll and avoid layoffs amid falling revenue and higher costs.

  • Connecticut

    - Total rural population: 220,249 (6.1% of state, #7 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 41,729 (18.9% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 41,391 (18.8% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 49.1% men, 50.9% women
    - Race demographics: 90.0% White, 2.5% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American or Alaska Native, 2.1% Asian, 0.0% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 9.8% Hispanic/Latino, 90.2% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    People who live in rural areas of Connecticut face higher rates of preventable deaths than their urban counterparts, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A lack of reliable public transportation to health care facilities from rural towns may be partially to blame for the poor health outcomes, according to Jodie Mozdzer Gil of the Hartford Courant.

  • Delaware

    - Total rural population: 170,432 (17.9% of state, #18 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 29,938 (17.6% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 48,256 (28.3% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 48.5% men, 51.5% women
    - Race demographics: 84.2% White, 10.0% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American or Alaska Native, 1.2% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 10.1% Hispanic/Latino, 89.9% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    Rural parts of Delaware have seen many mom-and-pop grocers shut down after big-box retailers moved in. However, the few remaining small grocery stores in some of the state's less-populated areas have seen their business boom during the pandemic, according to Delaware Public Media. Rural shoppers have turned to these stores after chain retailers had their shelves emptied.

  • Florida

    - Total rural population: 924,392 (4.5% of state, #5 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 183,999 (19.9% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 184,081 (19.9% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 53.8% men, 46.2% women
    - Race demographics: 79.2% White, 15.7% Black or African American, 0.5% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 15.5% Hispanic/Latino, 84.5% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    Food banks in rural Florida have been struggling to keep up with demand, according to Robbie Gaffney of WFSU. One such pantry, The Children's Table, which serves rural communities in North Central Florida, has seen demand rise by as much as 60% since the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Georgia

    - Total rural population: 2.0 million (19.4% of state, #19 state with the smallest rural population)
    - Children in rural areas (under 18): 456,319 (22.8% of state rural population)
    - Seniors in rural areas (over 65): 334,969 (16.7% of state rural population)
    - Gender demographics: 49.6% men, 50.4% women
    - Race demographics: 69.2% White, 25.3% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
    - Ethnicity demographics: 6.5% Hispanic/Latino, 93.5% Non-Hispanic/Latino

    The pandemic has shined a harsh spotlight on the generational racial inequities present throughout rural Georgia, according to Grace Walker of WABE. Hall County's Latino community and workers at its poultry plants have been acutely impacted by COVID-19, while Black communities have faced the highest rates of infection in central and southern Georgia.

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