Report Examines Future of Rural Idaho


For Immediate Release: July 27, 2018
Information Contact: Sam Wolkenhauer, (208) 457-8789 ext. 4451

While Idaho continues to rank among the fastest-growing states in the nation, the state’s population growth is primarily concentrated in urban areas while the population in rural areas is largely limited to people age 55 and older, according to a report released this week by the Idaho Department of Labor.

The Future of Rural Idaho examines the economic and demographic challenges facing the state’s rural areas amidst the growing gulf between rural and urban centers, which are driving forces for Idaho’s economic future.

Urban Idaho counties are defined as those where the largest city has more than 20,000 residents. Nine of Idaho’s 44 counties are considered urban – Ada, Bannock, Bonneville, Canyon, Kootenai, Latah, Madison, Nez Perce and Twin Falls.

Between 2005 and 2009, 80 percent of Idaho’s total population growth occurred in urban areas. From 2010 to 2015, urban Idaho’s population exploded, growing by 84,100, while the total population of rural Idaho decreased slightly by 104.

Aging trends add to the challenges of rural Idaho. The majority of rural Idaho’s population growth has been made up entirely of people above age 55, while the population below age 55 has decreased.

Job gains have also been primarily concentrated in Idaho’s urban counties, adding tens of thousands of jobs in the past decade. Most of the state’s rural counties remain below pre-recession levels of employment and earned income.

Idaho’s demographics are expected to lean even more heavily toward the retirement-age population in the future.

The state’s migration patterns show a steady stream of working-age residents leaving rural areas in favor of cities, while retirement-age residents move in to replace them. This further influences the population growth into vibrant urban economies where there are more jobs and higher paychecks.

The full report further defines rural counties, explores the conditions contributing to the rural-urban shift and the effects on Idaho’s economy.

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