Shrinking Rural America Faces State Power Struggle

As the new round of Congressional redistricting is around the corner, rural areas with diminishing populations might see that reflected in less power in statehouses and Congress.

This article was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

As states turn to drawing new state legislative and congressional districts after census numbers come out August 12, they’re likely to find that rural, generally conservative areas have shrunk in the past 10 years and stand to lose power in statehouses and Congress.

Stateline analysis of recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates shows rural areas lost 226,000 people, a decline of about 0.5%, between 2010 and 2020, while cities and suburbs grew by about 21 million people or eight percent. Only Hawaii, where retirees and remote workers are moving to rural islands, and Montana, which is drawing remote workers from pricey Washington state, saw more rural than urban growth.

Republican state legislatures will try to draw districts that preserve the political power of mostly conservative rural voters, but that task will become increasingly difficult as the population balance shifts toward cities.

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