Rural population declined for the third year in a row, according to population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely-settled regions, but this marks the first period of population decline for rural areas as a whole.
Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths, and changing migration patterns.
Since 2010, the increase in rural population due to natural change, expressed by 193 thousand more births than deaths, has not matched the decrease in population from net migration; fully 276 thousand more people moved out of rural areas than moved in.
It's worth noting that net migration rates fluctuate due to economic factors; depending on economic recovery, this period of rural population loss may be short-lived.