Young, rural residents saying 'Bye'

Young adults are leaving small cities and towns in droves across America's rural heartland, according to figures from the 2000 Census. The drain has left behind elderly residents and officials struggling to prevent their communities from eroding into ghost towns. Economic-development officials are struggling in areas that are losing young people. Some hope to lure high-tech businesses by the prospect of cheaper costs of living.

In an effort to turn things around, the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Office last year distributed $296 million in loans and grants to help community programs.

Census figures show that while population surged across the South and West, as well as in many urban centers in the Midwest, the population of small towns declined. Of the 99 counties in which 4 percent of residents were 85 or older, all but two are in the Great Plains. Most of them are in rural areas."There is a swath of rural and small towns that are on the potential 'ghost town' list, destined to a virtual demographic extinction," says William Frey of the University of Michigan. "It's likely many of these towns will simply die out, as fewer young people remain."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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