Between July 2010 and July 2014, nonmetro population declined for the first time since annual county population estimates were first recorded in the 1960s. Historically, nonmetro population grew because natural increase (more births than deaths) always offset net migration loss (more people moving out than moving in). But falling birth rates and an aging population have steadily reduced natural increase in nonmetro areas over time. The recent recession has also dampened migration to nonmetro locations more than it has dampened migration out, leading to the overall drop in nonmetro population levels.
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