The demographic dividends of decline: Population loss and inequality in U.S. counties, 1990–2010

Authors: Rachel Franklin*, Newcastle University, Eric Seymour, Brown University
Topics: Population Geography, United States, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: population, depopulation, United States, inequality, diversity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The demographic and economic forces at the root of ongoing population loss come with myriad consequences, both fiscal and social: tax bases erode, as do employment bases and social cohesion. At the same time, because the demographic sources of loss – out-migration and eventual natural decrease – are selective, the demographic composition of shrinking places can also be expected to change. Certainly, shrinking places can expect to become older, for example, as younger residents leave declining areas for better opportunities. Less well explored are the effects on income inequality and racial/ethnic diversity, key characteristics of places that have long been of interest to social scientists. In this paper we ask two questions on this subject, taking U.S. counties as our unit of analysis. First, what are the county-level impacts of depopulation on inequality—measured in terms of income and racial/ethnic diversity. Second, to what extent are shrinking counties responsible for increasing inequalities that may be observed at the national scale? To answer these questions we employ county-level data for 1990, 2000, and 2010 from NHGIS.

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