A striking US census map shows how much rural America has shrunk in the past decade

A US census map.
A map released by the showing population declines in rural areas across America. US Census Bureau
  • The Census Bureau on Thursday released population data for 2020.
  • The latest data shows populations have declined across rural area over the past decade.
  • The following map shows where populations grew and shrank from 2010 to 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A map released Thursday by the US Census Bureau shows how widespread the population declines in rural areas have become over the past decade.

Massive swaths of Middle America saw decreases in population growth from the 2010 to 2020 censuses.

Some areas – including large sections of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Mississippi – have seen declines in their population since 2010, the data shows.

Large chunks of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Illinois saw the same results. According to the US Census Bureau, the country became more urbanized from 2010 to 2020, with 86.3% of Americans living in metropolitan areas of more than 50,000 people.

It confirms the growing divide between rural and urban America that was starkly illustrated by the 2020 election, as Insider’s Nick Lichtenberg and Hillary Hoffower reported in November. Per a Brookings study, Joe Biden won more densely populated counties that made up 71% of America’s gross domestic product, while Donald Trump won counties representing just 29%. Hillary Clinton had won 64% of GDP versus 36% for Trump in 2016.

Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director of Brookings’ metropolitan program who was one of the report’s authors, told Insider at the time that America had two “different economic worlds,” and the census confirms the rural one is shrinking. Muro said this economic divide had been sharpening since 2000 and accelerated in the past decade.

The Census Bureau noted in a recent press release just how populations changed over the decade.

“Many counties within metro areas saw growth, especially those in the south and west,” Marc Perry, a senior demographer at the Census Bureau, said in a press release. “However, as we’ve been seeing in our annual population estimates, our nation is growing slower than it used to.”

He added: “This decline is evident at the local level where around 52% of the counties in the United States saw their 2020 census populations decrease from their 2010 census populations.”

Most of the 384 metro areas saw their populations grow. The Census Bureau noted 312 of the 384 grew over the decade, especially The Villages in Florida. This metro area increased its population by 39%, the fastest growth among metro areas.