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Retirees Boost Some Rural Populations

Relocating retirees are helping to increase the populations of some rural U.S. counties, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s happening: “Sevier County, [Tennessee,] along with a small number of other rural counties, aren’t only growing, but are adding residents at a faster clip than the U.S. overall, a Wall Street Journal analysis of the 2020 census found. Preliminary census estimates for those counties show the trend continuing into the pandemic.”

  • These counties are bucking the trend, however. Most rural counties lost residents from 2010–2020.

Why: Spots in the Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes and Ozarks regions are “drawing newcomers in search of mountains, lakes or other outdoor attractions, a moderate climate and a vibrant tourist trade that helps keep taxes low.”

The result: The arrival of the newly retired population to these areas is buoying local economies and creating jobs.

  • Furthermore, “[m]unicipal services are largely supported by tourist-generated sales taxes. If not for visitor dollars, the state Department of Tourist Development estimated in 2020 that Sevier County residents would have to pay an additional $5,960 in state and local taxes per household.”

But … “The growing economies of these high-draw rural counties are an exception to the falling fortunes of much of rural America and aren’t easily replicated.”

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