|By Hope Yen of Associated Press|
The trend toward a more urban population in America is accelerating and rural counties - the bastions of the Republican Party - are dying off and seeing drops in population. The irony is that as the populations in many of these counties double down on their conservatism, the population losses only increase as younger residents leave for more liberal and progressive areas that offer more job opportunities and social amenities. It's a trend that is clearly visible in Southwest Virginia where the political/religious establishment tries to hang onto the 1950's while unemployment remains inordinately high. Here are excerpts from a piece at MSN News that looks at the Census findings:
New 2012 census estimates released Thursday highlight the population shifts as the U.S. encounters its most sluggish growth levels since the Great Depression.
The findings also reflect the increasing economic importance of foreign-born residents as the U.S. ponders an overhaul of a major 1965 federal immigration law. Without new immigrants, many metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis would have posted flat or negative population growth in the last year.
"Immigrants are innovators, entrepreneurs. They're making things happen. They create jobs," said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, at an immigration conference in his state last week. Saying Michigan should be a top destination for legal immigrants to come and boost Detroit and other struggling areas, Snyder made a special appeal: "Please come here."
Census data show that 1,135 of the nation's 3,143 counties are now experiencing "natural decrease," where deaths exceed births. That's up from roughly 880 U.S. counties, or 1 in 4, in 2009. Already apparent in Japan and many European nations, natural decrease is now increasingly evident in large swaths of the U.S., much of it rural.
Despite increasing deaths, the U.S. population as a whole continues to grow, boosted by immigration from abroad and relatively higher births among the mostly younger migrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia.
"These counties are in a pretty steep downward spiral," said Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer and sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, who researched the findings. "The young people leave and the older adults stay in place and age. Unless something dramatic changes — for instance, new development such as a meatpacking plant to attract young Hispanics — these areas are likely to have more and more natural decrease."
Mark Mather, an associate vice president at the Population Reference Bureau, noted that political efforts to downsize government and reduce federal spending could also have a significant impact on future population winners and losers.
Since 2010, many of the fastest-growing U.S. metro areas have also been those that historically received a lot of federal dollars, including Fort Stewart, Ga.; Jacksonville, N.C.; Crestview, Fla.; and Charleston-North Charleston, S.C., all home to military bases. Per-capita federal spending rose from about $5,300 among the fastest-growing metros from 2000 to 2010, to about $8,200 among the fastest-growing metros from 2011 to 2012.
"Federal funding has helped many cities weather the decline in private sector jobs," Mather said.
— Roughly 46 percent of rural counties just beyond the edge of metropolitan areas experienced natural decrease, compared with 17 percent of urban counties.
— As a whole, the population of non-metropolitan areas last year declined by 0.1 percent, compared with growth of 1 percent for large metro areas and 0.7 percent for small metropolitan areas.
— In the last year, four metro areas reached population milestones: Los Angeles hit 13 million, Philadelphia reached 6 million, Las Vegas crossed 2 million and Grand Rapids, Mich., passed 1 million.
— Chattahoochee County, Ga., home to Fort Benning, was the nation's fastest-growing county, increasing 10.1 percent in the last year.
Although the study doesn't cite conservatism per se as a problem, here in Virginia many rural areas find it difficult to attract new business and industry because they are so culturally backward and unwelcoming to those who aren't white conservatives. Martinsville, Virginia, is a case in point. The area is scenically beautiful, but if you are gay, black, Hispanic and non-Christian, you will likely not be welcomed.