rural rebound
n. The recent and significant population increases in rural and exurban areas following years of declining or stagnant population growth.

Example Citations:
Many urban dwellers began to seek "second places" outside town. Many now — to be followed by many more in the future — are returning to the exurban frontier full-time. Among so-called developed regions, this "rural rebound" is especially marked in North America — Europe is so ancient, and so small, that a rural/urban synergy has perforce operated there for centuries.
—Peter Ferguson, "Rural migration," The Globe and Mail, April 26, 2004

Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at Loyola University-Chicago who has written about the rural rebound, said that non-metro areas with populations under 50,000 gained 5.2 million residents between 1990 and 2000.

Populations still declined in the Great Plains, western Corn Belt and Mississippi Delta regions. But they increased in the Mountain West, Upper Great Lakes (including parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin), Ozarks, and parts of the South and Northeast. Also, 86 percent of rural counties adjacent to metropolitan areas grew in the 1990s.
—Jon Tevlin, "Greener acres," Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), December 28, 2003

Earliest Citation:
After a decade of decline, many rural counties are growing again. Country towns that sell recreation and retirement are growing fastest. Disgusted urban dwellers are also lured to rural counties that offer plenty of manufacturing jobs, but many farm counties are still struggling. McDonald's, Hampton Inns, and other businesses are following the rural rebound by marketing country-style.
—Sharon O'Malley, "The Rural Rebound," American Demographics, May, 1994

Notes:
Proving that the rural rebound is at heart an alliterative trend, this phenomenon also goes by the names rural renaissance (1984), rural revival (1986), and booming boondocks (1998).

The acknowledged rural rebound expert is Kenneth M. Johnson, a sociologist at Loyola University-Chicago. In a paper co-authored with Calvin L. Beale of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the case for the rural rebound is neatly summarized:

Most rural areas of the United States are now growing at the fastest rate in more than 20 years. Rural population gains between 1990 and 2000 have been both extremely widespread and substantial. Fueled by an influx of migrants from urban areas and fewer people leaving, rural gains since 1990 are near record levels. They reflect a sharp reversal of the trend of the 1980s, when most rural (nonmetropolitan) areas lost population. This is only the second period of widespread nonmetropolitan growth in 80 years.

Nonmetropolitan areas— those without an urban center of 50,000 or more—gained 5.2 million additional residents (10.3 percent) between April 1990 and April 2000. In contrast, such areas grew by only 1.3 million during the 1980s. The rate of population increase in rural areas since 1990 is nearly four times as great as that during the 1980s. Almost 74 percent of the 2303 rural counties are now growing, compared to only 45 percent during the 1980s.
—Kenneth M. Johnson, Calvin L. Beale, "The Rural Rebound: Recent Nonmetropolitan Demographic Trends in the United States," http://www.luc.edu/depts/sociology/johnson/p99webn.html, March 14, 2003

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