Recent Trends in Nonmetropolitan Migration: Toward a New Turnaround?

Fuguitt, Glenn, and Calvin Beale
Working paper no. 1995-07


Over the past 30 years there have been three unanticipated shifts in metropolitan-nonmetropolitan population change and migration: the nonmetropolitan turnaround of the 1970s, with a migration balance favoring nonmetropolitan areas; the downturn of the early 1980s when nonmetropolitan areas lost net migrants as they did in the 1960s, and a more recent post-1990 recovery, with nonmetropolitan net migration rates once again above those of metropolitan areas. We have examined these changes since 1970 using annual estimates of net migration, considering the changing metropolitan-nonmetropolitan differential, and differences across geographic and functional county types in nonmetropolitan areas. Some geographic and functional differences stand out across the 24-year period, for example, slower growth or outright loss in the farm belt and faster growth in retirement counties. Yet the most notable finding is the widespread nature of the turnaround, the reversal, and the current recovery. There are differences between the present and the 1970s, but a trend toward greater retention and/or acquisition of people in rural and small town areas is clear.