County population change includes two major components: natural change (births minus deaths) and net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants). While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions. Net out-migration from nonmetro areas was more severe during the 1980s compared with 2010-13, but overall population change remained positive during the 1980s because natural increase contributed roughly 0.5 percent growth (compared with 0.14 percent today). Falling birth rates and an aging population have steadily dampened the contribution of natural change to nonmetro population growth. Nonmetro net migration rates peaked during the 'rural rebound' in the mid-1990s and again in 2004-06, just prior to the recent housing mortgage crisis and economic recession. Net migration remained positive for much of the past two decades, increasing nonmetro population every year but one from 1990 to 2008, but has since contributed to population loss.
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