The Lead

Report: Rural Pa. sees gains in migration, drop in birth rates

By: - May 16, 2023 7:13 am

Part of Rausch Creek property that would be the site of the proposed Anthracite Ridge wind farm. Turbines would be situated on the tops of either hill side. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

For the last decade, deaths have outnumbered births in rural Pennsylvania, a series of reports released on Monday found. 

In addition to these findings, the reports recorded a net-gain in population to rural parts of the commonwealth through in-migration. 

The reports, released by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a state legislative agency for rural policy, use data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Health, to better understand the commonwealth’s rural areas, including who is moving into — and out — of them. 


Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2021, more than 144,900 people moved into rural Pennsylvania and approximately 123,300 moved out. This movement resulted in a net gain of approximately 21,600 new residents, down from 21,800 in 2019. 

The report found that the majority of people (52%) moving to rural Pennsylvania, were from out-of-state. 

In fact, more than 54% of the people moving to rural Pennsylvania came from neighboring states New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Another 41% of the people who moved to rural areas of the commonwealth came from its urban areas, compared to 2019 when 38% came from urban Pennsylvania.

Lastly, 7% of the people who moved to rural Pennsylvania came from outside of the United States. 

Of those who left rural Pennsylvania, 53% went to other states, compared to 61% in 2019.

Fifty-one percent of those moved to one of the following five states: Florida, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Additionally, 47% of those who moved out of rural Pennsylvania relocated to urban areas in 2021.

The report identified working adults and college students as the two largest demographic groups driving in-migration to rural areas of the commonwealth. 

Working adults between the ages of 18 and 64 made up 40% of the people who moved out of rural Pennsylvania and 37% of those who moved into rural areas. 

College students made up 22% of those who moved into rural Pennsylvania and 18% of those who moved out, according to the report. 

Birth & Death Rates

From 2010 to 2020, deaths outnumbered births in rural Pennsylvania, accounting for the loss of nearly 85,000 residents.

Nationally, the birth rate from 2010 to 2020 was 12.13 per 1,000 residents, according to census data.

At 10.87 births per 1,000 residents, Pennsylvania had one of the nation’s lowest birth rates over the same time period with only eight states having lower birth rates.

In rural Pennsylvania, the birth rate was lower than the statewide rate at 9.17 births per 1,000 residents.

The report found that Wayne, Centre, Sullivan, Pike, and Forest counties had the lowest birth rates with each having rates below 8 births per 1,000 residents.

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