A Demographic Deficit? Local Population Aging and Access to Services in Rural America, 1990–2010

Brian C. Thiede, David L. Brown, Scott R. Sanders, Nina Glasgow, Laszlo J. Kulcsar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Population aging is being experienced by many rural communities in the United States, as evidenced by increases in the median age and the high incidence of natural population decrease. The implications of these changes in population structure for the daily lives of the residents in such communities have received little attention. We address this issue in this study by examining the relationship between population aging and the availability of service-providing establishments in the rural United States between 1990 and 2010. Using data mainly from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we estimate a series of fixed-effects regression models to identify the relationship between median age and establishment counts net of changes in overall population and other factors. We find a significant but nonlinear relationship between county median age and the total number of service-providing establishments, and counts of most specific types of services. We find a positive effect of total population size across all of our models. This total population effect is consistent with that found in other research, but the independent effect of age structure that we observe represents a novel finding and suggests that age structure is a salient factor in local rural development and community well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-74
Number of pages31
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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