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Report predicts Pa.'s rural communities will lose population and age in coming decades

A graph showing decreasing youth and increasing, then decreasing, senior populations in rural Pennsylvania through 2050.
Center for Rural Pennsylvania

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania says an aging population and population decline in rural communities will significantly affect policy issues through the year 2050.

Over the next 30 years, Pennsylvania’s population is projected to grow 1.6%, which is slower than in recent years. And that growth is expected in urban areas - mostly in the southeast part of the state.

A map of Pennsylvania with counties shaded based on projected population gain or loss.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania

The projection, made by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Data Center, finds rural communities’ population will decline by almost 6%, especially in the northern and western counties.

Kyle Kopko is the executive director for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. He says there will be a sharp increase in the number of senior citizens by the end of this decade.

“This will likely mean fewer individuals in the workforce, greater need for geriatric care and a host of other policy implications," Kopko said.

Kopko said a larger elderly population with fewer younger people to take care of them is concerning.

“But this doesn't have to be our future," Kopko said. "With policy interventions by trying to attract people, these data don't necessarily have to play out in the same form in the next 10, 20, 30 years."

Kopko said he hopes these projections inspire change.

State Sen. Gene Yaw represents Lycoming and other northern counties. He also chairs the board of directors for The Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

“To be very frank and blunt about it, the future of rural Pennsylvania is facing a real challenge and a change with the population numbers," Yaw said.

Yaw says these findings will help inform policy decisions over the next few decades.

A table of projected percentage population changes in Pennsylvania counties between 2020 and 2050.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania

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