Mar 30, 2019

Shrinking, aging, withering away

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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Iowa Community Indicators Program, Iowa State University; Chart: Chris Canipe

We hear much about two enormous U.S. and global trends — urbanization and aging. In most countries, people are fleeing to the city, and the population on average is getting older.

Details: Here in Iowa, you can see this happening in real time: The state's 19 "micropolitans" — population centers outside the gravitational pull of any big city, which exercise their own pull on smaller communities in their own region — are shrinking and aging.

Why it matters: When you think of family farms and rural America — the bedrock of much of the country's traditions — those communities survive as a piece of the micropolitan orbit. The micropolitans "are the anchor socially, culturally, economically," says David Swenson, an economics professor at Iowa State.

  • In recent decades, though, local jobs in manufacturing and businesses that grow up around them have been withering up, leading young Iowans to move to larger cities for work.

Two examples: As you see above, Cerro Gordo County's 65-and-over population surged to 20.6% in 2016 from 11.8% in 1970, according to data compiled by Swenson. In Dickenson County, one out of four people are 65 or older, compared with 14.2% in 1970.

  • On average, senior Iowans are now 18.6% of the micropolitans, up from 11.6% in 1970.
  • The state as a whole has aged, too — with 16.4% 65 or older, compared with 11.4% in 1970.

"Many of the towns are caught in a cycle of blight and degradation," Swenson told me. "They don't necessarily have a Plan B."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 855,007 — Total deaths: 42,032 — Total recoveries: 176,714.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 186,265 — Total deaths: 3,810 — Total recoveries: 6,910.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful" on Tuesday, with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans. The White House and other institutions are observing several models to help prepare for when COVID-19 is expected to peak in the U.S.
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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