John Cromartie

John Cromartie



John Cromartie is a geographer in the Rural Economy Branch, Resource and Rural Economics Division. John joined ERS in July 1990. His research focuses on rural population change, rural migration, and rural-urban classifications. He was the first to report and explain this decade’s historic shift to rural population decline. His research was featured in Secretary Perdue’s 2017 Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. He co-authored several reports based on a collaborative, field-based study of return migration to rural communities. Findings show that return migrants play a critical role in rural areas in slowing population loss, generating jobs, and increasing human capital. As an expert on rural definitions, John has developed new rural-urban classification schemes, most recently the ERS Frontier and Remote Area Codes. He has briefed policymakers on definitions used to determine eligibility for rural development programs at USDA, HHS, and other agencies. He serves as a consultant to the Office of Management and Budget on metropolitan area definitions and the American Community Survey. From 2005-14, John was a visiting lecturer in the geography department at George Washington University, where he taught a class on population geography.


John holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in geography, and a B.A. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Professional Affiliations

John is a member of the Association of American Geographers, the Population Association of America, and the Rural Sociological Society.

Selected Publications

Cromartie, J., and P. Han. 2018. "What Drives Spatial Variation in Housing Cost-burden Among Rural Low- and Moderate-income Renters?" in Rural Housing and Economic Development, Albrecht, D., Loveridge, S., Goetz, S., Welborn, R. (Eds.). New York: Routledge.

Cromartie, J., C. von Reichert, and R. Arthun. 2015. Factors Affecting Former Residents' Returning to Rural Communities, ERR-185, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

von Reichert, C., J. Cromartie, and R. Arthun. 2014. "Impacts of Return Migration on Rural U.S. Communities," Rural Sociology 79(2):200-26.

von Reichert, C., J. Cromartie, and R. Arthun. 2014. "Reasons for Returning and Not Returning to Rural U.S. Communities," The Professional Geographer 66(1):58-72.

Nelson, P., and J. Cromartie. 2014. "Subprime Lending and Its Impact on Rural Housing Markets," Housing and Society 41(2):145-176.

Cromartie, J., D. Nulph, G. Hart, E. Dobis. 2013. "Defining Frontier Areas in the United States," Journal of Maps 9(2):149-53.