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Census shows nonmetropolitan America is whiter, getting older, and losing population

July 11, 2017

Will nonmetropolitan America hold on to its outsize political clout? Perhaps not, according to some incisive analysis from William H. Frey at Brookings:

“Newly released census statistics for 2016 confirm that diversity in the United States continues to rise. For the first time, the population under age 10 has become minority white (white non-Hispanic) as the Hispanic, Asian, black, and other racial minority populations continue to rise up the age structure (download Table 1). The new numbers also show that Nevada has joined the ranks of states with minority white populations, along with Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Texas, as non-white racial groups continue to disperse (download Table 2). Yet one part of the nation continues to stand out for its slow embrace of the diversity surge: the 14 percent of the population that lies outside the nation’s metropolitan areas.

This is noteworthy in light of the huge attention given to nonmetropolitan America in the aftermath of the 2016 election because of its strong support of President Trump. Not only has the nonmetropolitan population remained much whiter than the rest of the nation, it is also getting older faster and shrinking in size. Despite its unmistakable impact on last year’s election, the demography of nonmetropolitan America—distinct from the rest of the country—may limit its long-term political clout.”

The Brookings report examines trends in race, age, and population growth – each of which indicate a retraction in nonmetropolitan America’s sway.

“Despite constituting a small and declining portion of the population both nationally and in most states, nonmetropolitan voters demonstrated substantial political influence during the latest election cycle. Can this sliver of the population continue to exert such clout?

It will certainly be more difficult. To be sure, there is wide variation among small nonmetropolitan areas—ranging from those with once-thriving farming and manufacturing sectors to those that are investing in newer industries. It is also possible that the population losses seen in many rural areas and small towns in the post-recession period may be less severe as the economy improves. But the new census statistics make plain that this segment of the nation’s population remains distinct on key demographic dimensions in sharp contrast to a much larger, growing and more diverse urban America.”