[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: In 2010, an estimated 41 million Americans were 65 years of age or older. By current estimates, that number will reach over 72 million by 2030, representing 19% of the total population. Population aging is more rapid in rural areas of the United States, yet rural places can face particular challenges in securing elements of their local infrastructure that are of important significance to older citizens.
Understanding the characteristics of rural elders is important for a thriving future, for both aging populations and the communities they live in. In a Chat in the Stacks book talk given at Cornell's Mann Library in March 2013, contributing authors Nina Glasgow, David L. Brown, and Douglas T Gurak, from the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell, discuss their new book, Rural Aging in 21st Century America. Co-edited by Glasgow and E. Helen Berry, the book highlights some of the sociological, demographic, and geographic aspects of aging in rural places.
NINA GLASGOW: OK. Thank you very much. I would say that David, and Doug, and I are going to be going back and forth, so you'll see changes as we go along. And I'm going to start off by giving you an overview of aging, and rural aging in particular, and also the book. I think probably all of you in this room know that rural aging is occurring worldwide in both developed and less developed countries. But the pace of aging is accelerating in more developed countries, especially because these countries have had baby booms that were born between roughly 1946 and 1964 in the US.
So that we find the situation in which in 2012, there were over 41 million people 65 and older living in the US. And by 2030, it's estimated that we will have over 72 million people 65 and older, and that will be approximately 20% of the population. So you can see that aging is occurring especially rapidly at this particular point in our history. The reason it's important to study rural aging is that the rural population is aging more rapidly than the urban.
In 2012, 16.5% of the rural population was 65 and older compared to 13% of the total US population. There are also a lot of challenges that are posed for those aging in rural areas. The small population size of rural areas leads to more costly services. Lower population densities increase the distance to services, so older people in rural areas have less access to services. Also, rural areas have poor infrastructure, and this too affects access to services and activities.
For example, it's very rare for rural areas to have public transportation systems. So if you're getting to a point where you may no longer wish to or be able to drive, it puts older, rural residents in a bad position at times. Now one of the ironies about rural aging is that even though rural communities have fewer services, they also have less availability of family members. And this is something that's happened over time, because a lot of rural areas in the country have chronic out-migration of young people.
Also, we find rural circumstances during younger ages that result in lower education and income during older ages. So this is considering things from a life course perspective where older people have had less good jobs and lower educations, and they bring those disadvantages with them into old age. So those are some of the reasons it's important to study rural aging.
Just to briefly talk about why I edited this book. And I will mention that I have a co-editor named E. Helen Berry or Eddy Berry. She's at Utah State University. And she and I edited this book for a couple of main objectives. One, to improve understanding of what makes the experience of aging in rural places different from aging in urban places. And Marty has already alluded to that.
We also wanted to increase understanding of how a rapidly aging population changes the nature of rural places and results in a number of different challenges and opportunities. The overarching themes we settled on in this edited volume were, number one, that aging poses challenges and opportunities. And we are going to be talking about some of those challenges and opportunities as we go along. It's also the case that there are a lot of myths about rural aging.
I alluded to the fact that rural, older people oftentimes don't have the very strong social support networks that people tend to assume they have, just because a lot of family members have moved away. Also, we felt it was a very important theme for our book to consider the diversity of rural places and rural, older people. And so that's one of the issues that we'll be talking about here today.
This is the table of contents of the book, by major section of the book, so there are chapters on economic inequalities, race/ethnic inequalities, rural institutional and community structures, and older rural migration and aging in place. And, overall, we have 19 chapters in the book.
And what we three at Cornell are going to be doing today is giving you an overview of some of the major trends that are occurring in rural areas. We're not going to be covering the entire content of the book. And, at this point, I'll turn it over David.
DAVID BROWN: Usually, I don't need this. I'm just getting over the flu, and so I better try to keep my voice a little lower. OK. So I'm going to talk a little bit about the demography of aging and rural aging, just enough so you get an idea of how populations age and what component of this process is particularly important in a rural context compared with an urban context.
Well, first of all, I would identify four interdependent processes that interact with each other to produce older populations. First of all, chronic low fertility. I think most people know that fertility in the United States and most other developed nations is at a relatively low level. The US has been above replacement until relatively recently.
During the recession, the fertility rate in the United States actually dipped below replacement. Well, if you have low fertility over a long period of time, you're going to have fewer children. And, of course, if you've got fewer children, they're going to grow up to be fewer parents that have fewer children. So that removes younger people from the population and increases a population's average age.
Secondly, we have the process of aging in place. And so people who are currently in their middle ages enter old age, if they survive, from 64 to 65. That's, sort of, the conventional marker of old age in the United States, or older age, as I think I would say. And also, older people, of course, are living longer, and so you've got survival after age 65 for longer periods of time. So aging in place.
And, as Nina indicated before, since we have this baby boom, these large cohorts of births that were born after the Second World War, all of these folks are entering or are about ready to enter older age, and then they'll continue there for a while. The fourth component is that young adults might move out. And this is important because, of course, if you have younger people leaving, they take their young age with them. And, also, they take their reproductive potential with them.
And so, again, if this continues for a long enough period of time, it has an aging effect, as well. And finally, the fourth component is that older people can move in. And Nina's going to talk a little bit later about older people that move into rural areas. So among these four components, they all affect aging and rural areas, but the component that is most effective, that contributes most to aging the rural population more rapidly than the urban population, is the fact of long term net out-migration of rural youth.
There was a book written recently called Hollowing Out the Middle. And so that phenomenon is really what we're talking about here. So if you have a long enough period of young people moving out, again, they take themselves, they take their children, they take their and children's reproductive potential, and it changes the age structure from a pyramid into a rectangle. And if it goes on long enough, then it gets to be actually something like this, so that that population can produce more deaths than births, or it will just be a stable population.
So that really is happening more in rural areas than in urban areas, and it's having a big impact on the age composition of rural areas and on rural aging. OK. So that's one demographic thing I want to talk about. The second thing I want to talk about, as Nina pointed out, the context is quite different in rural areas. It's a big-- you know, this is a big country. There's lots of rural territory, lots of rural places, and so there's lots of way to divide this territory up, this geography up.
And we're going to divide it up in one particular way. We're going to make a comparison between places that have natural decrease, that's more deaths than births, and places that are attracting older in-migrants. Now a natural decrease, again, that means that this is a population that produces more deaths than births on an annual basis, and one of the results is extreme aging.
So in 2000, the last year for which we had data on natural decrease areas, there were 19.1% of the population was 65 and above in areas the United States with more deaths than births, compared with about 12% of the total population at that age. Again, this is the result primarily of long term out-migration of young adults and their children. And this is considered to be a social problem.
Now contrasting to that is destinations for older in-migrants. And this is situations where the conventional way that this is seen is that places that have net migration, in other words, more older people coming in that are leaving at a rate far in excess of the US average. Now the average mobility rate for people at age 65 is about 9%. And the way that most people look at the older migration destinations is somewhere in the vicinity of 15%, so very much in excess of the national average.
Here aging is actually moderated, because if you have the in-migration of older people, typically this just going to induce the in-migration of younger people to provide goods and services. And so places that were migration destinations for older persons had about 17% of the population aged 65 and above in 2000. Still quite old but not as old, This is typically considered to be an economic and social opportunity. As a matter of fact, many states and some localities have explicit programs that are designed to attract older people as an economic development option.
OK. Now just to give you an idea of the geography of this. This is the natural decrease counties, and these are the counties that have older in-migration. And so you can see that the natural decrease, more deaths than births, has a very distinct geographic concentration in the center of the country and, to some extent, in Appalachia. Whereas, if you look at the older in-migration at 15% or more, that's the brown colored counties here, they are much more widely spread across the country.
Here in the Upper Midwest, in the Ozarks, and Wichita Mountains, some in Western Appalachia, of course, some in Florida. This is the hill country of Texas, and this is the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Now this looks like it's more important than it really is because these counties are huge geographically. San Bernardino County is bigger than New England, but it doesn't have that many people living in it.
So, again, if you weighted these data by size, that wouldn't look quite the same. But, nonetheless, they are located in this area. So these two kinds of areas are geographically pretty dissimilar. So now I'm-- whoops. I want to go back one. Whoops. I don't want to do that either. Well, OK. How do you go back? OK. I got it. So as the transition, what I want to say is that Nina is going to talk about some of the opportunities associated with older in-migration, and Doug is also.
He's not going to focus on these in-migration counties, but he's going to talk about immigration from abroad. And I think there, it's more of a positive story. Then they're going to turn it back to me, and I'm going to talk a little bit about what's going on in this area. And as I indicated before, that's kind of the dark side of rural aging, where you've got more problems than opportunities. So now I turn it back to you.
NINA GLASGOW: OK. Well, in 2008, David and I wrote a book titled Rural Retirement Migration, and we gave a talk, a Chat in the Stacks, five years ago and some of you may have been here. At that time, we were calling this phenomenon of older people moving into rural areas rural retirement migration. We no longer identify this issue as rural retirement migration for a couple of reasons. Instead, we call them older in-migration destinations.
The reason being that a lot of these older people are not retired. And some who have retired at one time re-enter the labor force, so we decided on new terminology. In 2008, I talked about older in-migrants as volunteers, and these in-migrants migrants tend to be well educated. They are relatively affluent. Many of them have retired from executive level positions from large corporations, living in large cities.
So they have the skills and the resources to become active in their destination communities, and a high proportion of them do. But what I want to focus on today in talking about these older in-migrants is to discuss their activities as social entrepreneurs. Somewhere during the course of doing this study, I realized that a lot of them are doing something that goes beyond just volunteering. So they tend to be movers and shakers in these communities to which they've moved.
And the way we're defining social entrepreneurs is that they are people who invest human and social capital to enhance their quality of life and also to augment the collective capital of the community. And these social entrepreneurs increase the potential for ongoing, sustainable, rural development. And, in fact, as we went around to a number of these retirement in-migration, or see I-- these older in-migration destinations, almost all of these places have a definite look of new development and prosperity.
So just visibly, there's a lot of evidence that having older people move in has had some kind of an effect that makes these communities look more prosperous. And it seems that this is partly as a result of the entrepreneurial activities of the older in-migrants. And here I've-- if I can get this thing to work. I'm not very good with technology. I've failed. OK. The woman on the left was a selectman in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. So she was a public official.
So that's an example of someone who is very participatory in the running of the community in which she lives. And the man on the right was an American Indian who left the community in Leelanau, Michigan and went to Michigan State, got a PhD, and worked in state government in Lansing for a number of years until he retired. And then when he retired, he returned to Leelanau to assume a leadership position in the American Indian community in which he had grown up.
And you can see that one of the three sister crops in the background with corn, beans, and squash. That's a common part of the culture of American Indians. OK. In terms of the data that I'm drawing on for this discussion of social entrepreneurship, we did in-depth case studies, and we did them in-- one case study in each of the four major regions of the country. We did one in Brevard, North Carolina, one in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Payson, Arizona and Leenanau, Michigan.
And these retirement destinations that were in-depth case studies have the circles around them, so that gives you an idea of where they're located. This slide provides a picture of each of these four case study areas, with Boothbay Harbor being top left, Brevard top right, Payson bottom left and Leenanau bottom right. So you can see that these are areas that have scenic beauty and, also, they look pretty prosperous. So now I want to give you some examples of what these older in-migrants were doing in the way of being social entrepreneurs.
They were founders of or instrumental in founding new organizations and new services. They weren't simply volunteering in organizations that already existed. The in-migramts raised money for and did plantings for the coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and that's pictured at the right in this chart. They raised money for and were instrumental in building a new YMCA in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. A similar story came out in Brevard, North Carolina where they had raised money for and were very instrumental in getting a new public library.
They had started arts cooperatives in some of these communities. There was a new theater company started in Boothbay Harbor. In Leelanau, Michigan, they had renovated an old, historic port on Lake Michigan, and it had become a big tourist attraction in that area. They had also developed chore services where well, older people were helping less well, older people. And, as I say, the older in-migrants were the movers and shakers and the real impetus behind these new kinds of organizations and activities in these destination communities.
To go a bit further, we also found that retired or semi retired architects, lawyers, wastewater engineers, any number of professionally trained people who had moved into these communities, were providing unpaid professional services to local units of government. And, in fact, some of the public officials we talked to made a point of saying that it had been years since they had to pay for any kind of consulting in their local government.
It was less common for the older in-migrants to run for public office, but we found in Payson, Arizona, this man pictured on this slide was in favor of managed growth, whereas the politicians that were in office were more in favor of unfettered growth and development, if you will. So he organized some of the in-movers, as well as some of the longer term residents, too, and ran for political office. And he and several others took office as the mayor and positions on the city council.
So, as I say, these people are not just volunteering. They're really shaking things up in these communities. I'm focusing on the positive aspects of this. I'm sure some of you can imagine that there are occasionally tensions between the old timers and the newcomers in these communities. But the case is that they do lend sort of, a development scenario to these places. And, at this point, I'm turning it over to Doug. I don't know where you're-
DOUG GURAK: I thought it was open already, but no. Here we are. OK. Mary Kritz and I prepared what turned out to be chapter 18, where we're looking at a rather different perspective. We're looking at the whole country and attempting to provide a fairly detailed description of growing important and growing population that's elderly immigrants in the US. It's also a rapidly changing population. And there are a lot of interesting comparisons to be made.
You're all well aware, because it's something that's hammered into us, that the origin composition of the immigrant population has been great changing dramatically towards Asian and Latin American origins from European. If we look at the country as a whole, in the late 2000s using the American Community Survey, we can see this by just looking at the elderly. This is the 60 and older population that we're looking at. And we can see in 1980, there are about 3 and 1/2 million elderly immigrants in the country. 1990, still the same.
So what had happened, we'd a lot of Asian and Latin American and others moving in and a lot of the European elderly dying that period, so you got no net growth. And then we started seeing the category growing a lot, and even saw growth occurring in the European population, at least in an absolute sense, even as they became proportionately less important. But now you've got the, this is for the country as a whole, the elderly being largely not of European, Canadian origins.
This same transition is happening in rural America, but at a slower pace. Because people who move to rural areas tend not to immigrate directly from abroad there. But rather, they come to the country, spend some time, and eventually re-migrate, and for a variety of reasons, depending on the group, can end up living in smaller communities. Most immigrants are living in metropolitan areas. It's about 95%.
Indeed, the percent living in rural areas has actually gone down a little bit in previous decades, but the absolute number is growing dramatically, because, well, we've got over 40 million immigrants in the country right now. So they're becoming numerically important, even though it is still a smaller part of the overall immigrant picture. Elderly immigrants in rural areas, therefore, are, sort of, a select group.
They're not a random representation of the immigrant groups that we're looking at, but rather they are a population that, first of all, come from groups that were arriving in larger numbers at an earlier point in time. And secondly, they've gone through some process, some spatial assimilation process, where they became the ones that ended up moving to these areas that were not typical destinations for most immigrant groups. So I'm, sort of, just putting that out to give you a sense of where we're heading in the sense that elderly immigrants in rural areas are a select group in many ways.
Overall, in 2000, 58% of the rural. elderly immigrants were from European or Canadian origins. By just about an average of seven years later, using the three year American Community Survey 2006 to 2008, that number shrank 10 points, down to 48%. So we're seeing some really rapid transition occurring in this population, but the elderly immigrant population in rural areas is still much more European, 48% versus 32% in metropolitan areas.
So, again, it's, sort of, a lagged and somewhat different process going on in population change in rural areas. If we look at specific groups, too, you get an interesting picture. And we look at-- LA stands for Latin American origin groups in rural areas. The biggest groups are Mexicans, people born in Mexico, Cuba, and Colombia. Whereas, in metropolitan areas, Colombians aren't among the largest Latin American groups, but Salvadorans and Dominicans are, and Salvadorans are a very rapidly growing population.
So, again, we're getting a different mix of groups, too. And the same goes for the Asians where in the rural areas, the Filipinos, Japanese, and Koreans are the largest immigrant groups. In the metropolitan areas, only the Filipinos are in that top group. But Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese are much bigger. Again, we're looking at different slices. And it's an interesting process because, in some ways, it is converging with about a 20 year lag. I think I'll skip over that, but it's basically a point I've made here that we-- You've got me doing it now.
If we did this 5, 7, 10 years out into the future, the groups that we'd be looking at would be different, yet again. because we have some considerable growth occurring, but populations haven't quite aged into the elderly category yet. OK. So one of the things I'm emphasizing is that we've got a lot of different groups, and we're going to see just how different they are. And I basically have argued that you have to be careful because of this to make broad generalizations about elderly immigrants.
But, nonetheless, there are commonalities, so it is possible to generalize to a certain degree. I'm going to look at two basic dimensions of the diversity or heterogeneity in the immigrant group population. One is a comparison or a distinction between elderly immigrants from Mexico, and those from all other origins, and from the native born population. As we'll see very shortly, there are some dramatic comparisons there. But we're also going to look at some geographic variations, which, sort of, fits with some of the things you've already seen.
And that is that we'll first describe how the groups are similar or different, and then we'll look within a group and see how they're different from place to place too. First of all, if you're going to talk about group differences, Mexicans versus Indians versus Filipinos versus Cubans, what you will expect, especially if you're comparing them with the native born and the European origin population, a reasonable expectation would be that the native born would be best off followed by the European immigrants, and other immigrants would somehow be in the hierarchy down.
But I bet you, if I questioned now, you'd know that's a trick question and that's not the answer. Basically, if we look at household income, the native born, rural population, elderly, and I'm using elderly rather loosely, 60 and older, although, we do look at older subsections within it too. It's just over $49,000. Total foreign born, higher income, $7,000 higher. Those of European origin, about $58,000. Higher yet. Mexicans about $20,000 less.
So that could be the total picture. It could be the picture where we didn't quite have it right. The native born weren't on top, it was the Europeans that were on top, and then the Mexicans on the bottom. But that's not quite it, because if we look at a few other groups, we see who's really making money among the elderly in the rural areas. And the Filipinos look really strong at $78,000. Cubans at $65,000. Show offs from India had to go up to $144,000.
It's not a minor difference. We're just doing a rank order thing here. That's a huge difference. We examine a lot of different assimilation, household composition, socioeconomic status, and health and disability dimensions, and it's too many to describe. But in making these contrasts, we get a very similar story for the relevant dimensions, and I'll give you a couple examples. If we look at the disability picture using the 2008 American Community Survey, they had five questions on self-reported disabilities, and you could have none of them or anywhere up to five of them here.
The averages are all, luckily, less than an average of one. But for the native born it was 0.76. Europeans a little bit better, 0.68, a little bit less disability, Mexicans, a bit more. And not just a bit. But a lot more at 0.97. And then all the other groups are much lower than the Europeans. Indians 0.27 to Japanese 0.62, 0.58. 0.48. So we get, both with income and disabilities, a picture with Mexicans forming a bottom tier, Europeans and native born in the middle, and a variegated top level with the Asians and other Latin Americans there too.
And you get the same picture if you look at higher education, the percent with college degrees with four or more years of college. Native born 15%. Europeans 20%. Cubans LA, and other Latin Americans, about the same as the Europeans. Filipinos doing really well. And there's those Indians again with 64% of the rural, elderly in the United States having college degrees. Whoops. I went back too far.
Geographic variations, again, there's a lot more I could describe on that, but the basic picture is, you can't really talk about elderly, foreign born people in rural areas as a single category, since we are spanning a very low level of socioeconomic and health indicators, education levels, and an extremely high level. And the native born and the European origin groups making up the middle. If we look at geographic location, we're looking at groups that are living in different parts of the country.
So Cubans are very much East Coast, Southeast part of the US, and mid-Atlantic area. Asians tend to have high concentrations on both coasts, as well as in some other areas. Mexicans, especially elderly Mexicans, are highly concentrated in the Southwest. They're dispersing throughout, but a lot of that dispersal is among younger populations. For example, Mexicans, for the rural, elderly immigrants from Mexico, 39% residing in Texas, one state. Another 17% in California. So 56% just in two states
OK. I'm putting California in the Southwest rather than Pacific, for anybody from the Census Bureau here. So we have a very high concentration. But you go down to the next lines, it says that the situation of elderly in Texas and elderly in California is dramatically different. In Texas, 36% of the elderly immigrants are below the poverty cutoff. Where in California, the numbers halve, just about, to 19%. So you have something very different in the populations in the context.
There's no time to go into it, and I don't really know why the difference is, but part of it is history, and part of it is that there's a much bigger rural area and many more rural counties in Texas than there are in California, so we could have yet another little distortion there. Mexicans, like other immigrants, are dispersing to a lot of new destinations, new destination states around the country. And you might ask, how are they doing?
So we looked at the distribution across different states and used this one indicator, the poverty line here. And we find that in the Carolinas, North and South Carolina, which has been a major new destination for Mexican immigrants, over 50% of the rural elderly in those states were below the poverty cutoff. So we've got a headline here that the poorest part of the Mexican elderly population is flooding towards these new destinations, right?
Of course not, because we have other new destinations, like Nebraska and Oregon, where the poverty level for the rural Mexican elderly is very low. OK? So we've got a lot of sorting processes going on, different processes going on, and you can't get at them all with the census data. It could be people retiring and going to a place. It could be different people at an earlier stage went to a place because of their occupations and aging in place.
And that's something you can't really track down with the census data, which is why it's nice to have the other forms of data. But, again, the theme is that we get very different results and pictures based on which groups we look at, and then within the group, which place we look at, too, so be careful. Among the Asian and other Latin American groups, the place or geographic effects aren't as big, but they exist.
So, for example, among Filipinos, the rural elderly living in Hawaii are dramatically less educated and have dramatically lower income than Filipinos on the mainland. I think I know the answer to that, but I don't have time to give a very distinct immigration history in terms of who settled in Hawaii and what the more recent settlement patterns of health workers and medical personnel has been in other parts of the United States. But, again, a dramatic difference even amongst one of the more elite populations.
There are also pockets of potentially disadvantaged Asians and non Mexican Latino rural elderly, but most of them tend to be elderly who arrived in the country for the first time after attaining the age of 50. And those that arrived in the country after attaining the age of 50 tend to be much lower education levels. We also have very high levels of extended household arrangements in those same groups, and it could simply be, and we haven't really put together the whole picture on this.
But it could simply be that what we're seeing here is people from India, people from the Philippines, people from Colombia, having settled in the country become citizens, use the immigration policy that allows you to bring immediate relatives to the country, and maybe they're even living in the same household. Because we do know among the Asian and some of the Latin American countries, over 30% of the rural households are extended and that, sort of, process there too.
If they're not, you have the potential for a bifurcated distribution in some significant segments of these well-off populations that could have problems. But I think most of it is the family reunification, at least among the Asian groups. So just to wrap up this, sort of, quick, run through part of the chapter 18 here. If you wanted to draw a conclusion from what we've been looking at here, it's that the rural, elderly immigrants are, with the exception of Mexicans, doing very well. Indeed, you might want to even classify them as something of an elite group in the rural setting.
And, indeed, a lot of them are doctors, and technical workers, and all, and that might be a very reasonable characterization. But the Mexican rural elderly do appear to be a disadvantage group, regardless of the dimension we examine. And having said that, I also say that you have to, if you're considering policy alternatives to deal with a stressed or disadvantaged population, you have to keep in mind that if you're talking about Texas, it's one thing. If you're talking about Nebraska, it's a totally different type of picture. Thank you, and I'll pass it back to somebody.
DOUG GURAK: OK. So just to remind you, now I'm going to talk about these natural decreased counties, and they are concentrated in the center of the country Whoops. Wrong way. OK. So this is an interesting slide. I took this off the Carsey Institute's website last week. This is published by Ken Johnson, who also has a chapter in the book. And this is the number of counties in the United States with more deaths than births, and you can see that almost continuously-- this thing doesn't work.
From 1980, we've had an almost continuous increase. There was somewhat of a drop here, and then an accelerated increase to the present time. So there are 1,135 of our almost 30,000 counties the United States that presently have more deaths than births, and this is a record. That's 36% of all US counties have more people dying each year than are being born. But in rural areas, 46% of all rural or non-metropolitan counties have more deaths than births, and only 17% of urban, so natural decrease in the United States is a disproportionately rural phenomenon.
For the first time in US history, two entire states have more deaths than births. This is like Western Europe. And so the reason for this acceleration of the number of natural decreased counties recently, partly it has to do with the recession. Again, as I mentioned before, the total fertility rate, the birth rate in the United States went below replacement in the United States during the recession. So you've got fewer births being added, but also the population continues to age, bringing more people into ages where the risk of dying is higher. So more deaths and fewer births gives you natural decrease.
So what are some of the implications of this? Well, first of all, so if you want to get a sense for what some of these places look like, I Googled depopulation of the United States, and they gave me some pictures. So you can see, these are pretty dreary looking places. And, as a matter of fact, there's been a lot of interest in this the present time. These are three very recent books, Main Street Blues, Hollowing Out the Middle, and this one is Remaking the Heartland. So there's a lot of scholarly interest in this whole idea of population or depopulation in the United States now.
So why is natural decrease seen as a problem? Well, first of all, if you've got natural decrease, you almost, unless you've got in-migration, immigration, you are almost, you know, for sure going to have total population decline, as well. And so you're going to have declining customers for businesses, and a lot of businesses are at increased risk of closing. You've got declining property values, because people are leaving vacant property or the real estate market is much slower.
You've got a declining school age population for certain. No question about that. This can weaken schools, can lead to closing of schools. Although, I would point out that demography does not-- population change does not automatically result in these kinds of outcomes, that there are some organizational adjustments that places can make to modify or to mediate these negative population effects. Fewer new leaders, fewer ideas, and also increased health care costs.
Now most health care costs are not paid locally, but it puts more pressure on the health care system nationally. So it's seen, again, as a problem. Now as you go through this literature on depopulation or natural decrease, you start getting into things-- people start talking about the dying small town. And so the question is, are natural decrease counties dying? So this here, this is a recent book, Ghost Towns of Route 66. This thing. You buy cheap, they don't work. OK. And then there's a picture of a ghost town there. I don't know. It's Silver City or something.
So the question is, does the place have to vanish to die? Is that the definition of a dying place, that the last person leaves town, and they turn off the lights? And the answer to that is, really, no. In fact, very few places die. My major professor, Glenn Fuget did a really interesting article back when I was a grad student using a technique, a probability technique, to look at the movement of places through the size categories. And a lot of places, sort of, get smaller and smaller and smaller, but then they persist.
So it's really unusual for places just to turn off the last light. This picture of the ghost town this is really unusual, but that doesn't mean that places can't, from a sociological standpoint, die. And I think that a place dies when it experiences continuous population decline for so long that it loses all potential for future natural population growth, when its age structure is so unfavorable to growth that the only way that it really could possibly grow is through in-migration.
And so what happens when you get to this situation? If it goes on long enough, it becomes so small that it can no longer offer essential services like health, education, public safety, commercial services, transportation. And some of these places come to play a purely residential function. Now you might say, well, what's wrong with that? I know a lot of suburbs, and they're purely residential. But we're talking about places that have a life history, that used to be full of places, with economies and commercial sectors.
Going from that kind of a situation to simply being a place where somebody sleeps at night and then gets in the car and goes somewhere else to work, and to go to the grocery, and whatever. So, in my opinion, if you're thinking about what a dying town is, it's really one that can't provide much for its population, regardless of whether it goes to population zero or not. And this is the case for many of these natural decreased counties. And natural decrease, and it's a vicious cycle.
So natural population decrease reduces economic and social opportunities. And as you get fewer and fewer economic and social opportunities, it reduces the chances for population growth. Young people continue to move out, and who wants to move to a place like that? And so it just keeps going, and they get to a very small, unviable situation. OK. Now to make this discussion, this the last thing when we talk about, a little bit more complicated, it turns out that over one half of destinations for older migration also experienced natural population decrease.
And we've already told you that these older migration destinations are the better off places. That's seen positively. But about half of them have more deaths than births. How does this occur? Well, it occurs when older in-migration is not matched by migration at younger ages. So here you, in other words, younger persons not being attracted to these places and you get the aging in place of people who move there at age 60 or above. And so, basically, what's happening is aging in place overcomes the lack of migration from the younger ages.
So this is a, kind of, an interesting story. And this is a really nice woman that we interviewed when we were doing our study, and she is a migrant that moved to a destination of older migration at about 60, and she's been aging in place. And you can see, she's living in a very nice situation, but you can tell she's becoming frail. And so there's a theory of older migration, and that theory is that migration in the later stage of the life course, that there's a number of stages. And the first one is an amenity move.
People move to these places to take advantage of amenities, outdoor recreation, water sports, snowmobiling in the Upper Midwest, whatever. And then later, as people have a problem, like a health problem, or disability, or lose their driver's license, they tend to make an assistance move and move back toward where their children are. And so the prediction is that people who move into these rural retirement migration areas, or these destinations for older migrants in rural areas, that they aren't going to stay, that they're not going to age in place.
But our study found that a third of the older people that moved to rural areas in the United States had at least one adult child within a half an hour of where they moved to. And so we see them as not only having an amenity move but making that assistance move at the same time, And we do not think these people are going to leave, we think these people are going to age in place. And we think this is part of the dynamic of why these destinations for older migrants are increasingly are also having a natural decrease, because they are moving there.
They're not leaving. They're aging in place. And they're not attracting enough younger migration to offset this, and certainly not having enough births. So that's, I think, what I want to talk about. Well, I guess there was one other thing. This is actually where a lot of my research is now going. And so we know a heck of a lot about the population dynamics that lead to natural decrease. We know why this occurs demographically, and we know a lot of the demographic implications, but we don't really know much about the social and economic consequences.
There's a lot of anecdotal evidence around, like about the dying towns and things, but we don't really have much empirical evidence. And so, for example, we don't know why some natural decrease areas are so much worse off than others. And we don't know whether, you know, why some of them appear to be "dying", at least in a social and economic sense, while others are not. And we don't know whether natural decrease can be reversed.
We know there is some reversal, but we don't know what factors predict whether a place that it does have more deaths than births turns it around. And also, we don't really know how living in a place that has more deaths and birth affects the quality of life, for example, of older people. So what is the effect of having more deaths than births on a place's ability to provide essential services? And what about on social relationships?
As Nina told you right at the beginning, one of the ironies of rural aging is that rural, older people have fewer social relationships, especially familial relationships, available to them to take the place of formal services than is the case in urban areas. And so, again, a lot of the work that I'm going to be doing in the near future is going to look at more of the sociological aspects associated with having more deaths than births. So that's my part. I'll turn it over Nina, and she'll wrap it up.
NINA GLASGOW: OK. So we've talked about these different kinds of contexts in which older people live. And just to give you a few of the overall trends, all baby boomers will be 65 and older by 2030, and they will continue to age in the population through about 2050. So this notion of rural aging in the 21st century is a phenomenon that's going to be with us for a while. And also, during this time period, 2030 to 2050, the age 75 and older group is going to be the fastest growing segment within the elderly population.
And these are people who are more likely to have health problems or disabilities. So we need to take that into account when we develop policies related to older people. And by 2050, it's estimated that the US will be 50% minority population, and that's overall, and that will be to a lesser extent true for the older population. So, in some sense, you're going to have minorities, younger, working age minorities, who will be supporting a disproportionate share of the cost of older persons.
So these are some of the issues that are looming and already being considered in the US. In terms of rural issues specifically, as I said earlier, there's less community infrastructure to support older persons in rural areas, such as public transportation, medical services, shopping, other types of amenities. So in rural areas, it becomes especially important to coordinate and have formal services to be supportive of informal services that are provided by family and friends.
Another conclusion we make about rural aging is that rural areas are diverse. And I think you probably-- I hope you're convinced of that by now given some of these different areas where they are experiencing some effects from aging. So in terms of policy, you can't make the conclusion that one size fits all in terms of policy, especially in relation to these older migration destinations versus the natural decrease areas, and also in terms of the new immigrants moving to rural areas.
That is another area that needs a specific focus. And, as Doug said, rural, elderly migrants are, with the exceptions of Mexicans, doing very well. And it's the Mexican rural elderly who appear to be disadvantaged. So, again, when we start thinking about policy, we need to think about the particular region of the country, the particular groups that we might be targeting, not just blanket policy. And also, it's important to remember that older, rural residents provide skills and resources, but their contributions may diminish as they advance in age and age in place.
And it seems incumbent upon communities to plan for their future now. One of the things David and I found when we were doing our in-depth case studies was that these communities didn't seem very interested in planning for elderly services, such as transportation when older people in the community could no longer drive. So these are things that are important to consider as we move forward as an aging population. So thank you, and thank you all for coming, and we will take questions if you want to ask any.
SPEAKER 1: This has been a production of Cornell University on the web at cornell.edu.
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In 2010, an estimated 41 million Americans were 65 years of age or older. By 2030, that number is estimated to reach over 72 million, representing 19% of the total population.
In a "Chats in the Stacks" book talk, Nina Glasgow, David L. Brown, and Douglas T. Gurak discuss how population aging is more rapid in rural areas of the United States. Many elderly need to rely more heavily on family or friends for transportation or have a greater reliance on cars.
Access to other infrastructure including health care, elder day care centers, or grocery stores is also more complicated in rural places, and smaller populations makes support of these services more difficult. Understanding the characteristics of rural elders, including their family status and living conditions, has become an important challenge in the 21st Century.