In this brief, authors Kenneth Johnson and Daniel Lichter report that although population declines were widespread between 2010 and 2020, rural America became more racially and ethnically diverse. In part, the recent uptick in racial diversity in rural America is a consequence of White population decline.
Rural America remains predominately non-Hispanic White with 35 million White residents constituting 76 percent of the rural population according to the 2020 Census. This represents a decline from 79.8 percent in 2010. The number of rural residents who are members of a racial or ethnic minority increased to 11 million between 2010 and 2020, which is 24.0 percent of the nonmetropolitan population compared to 20.2 percent in 2010.
The rural child population is more diverse than the adult population. Today, nearly one-third of all rural children (32.5 percent) come from racial or ethnic minority populations, compared to 28.1 percent in 2010. This growing child diversity is the result of two diverging trends. Over the past decade the rural minority child population has grown by 229,000 (7.4 percent), while the non-Hispanic White child population has declined by 980,000 (12.7 percent). The contrasting patterns are in part because a larger share of the White population has aged beyond child-bearing age, although there are also some differences in fertility rates between the groups.
Racial-ethnic diversity and its social, economic, and political implications are experienced unevenly across nonmetropolitan America. High and growing diversity is clear in some parts of rural America, while other areas remain largely homogeneous (e.g., Whites in many rural parts of the Midwest or Hispanics in borderland counties in the Southwest).
Carsey School of Public Policy
National Issue Brief No. 163
Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire
Johnson, Kenneth M. and Lichter, Daniel, "Growing Racial Diversity in Rural America: Results from the 2020 Census" (2022). The Carsey School of Public Policy at the Scholars' Repository. 449.
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