Small-town and rural America is fading away as the US becomes a nation of suburbanites and city dwellers, according to the latest census figures. The share of Americans who live in rural areas—including towns with fewer than 50,000 people that are out of commuting range of metropolitan areas—has declined to a record of low of just 16%—down from 72% a century ago. Some 51% of Americans now live in suburban areas, the census found. Demographers expect the trend to accelerate as young people continue to leave rural areas to seek work elsewhere and are not replaced by new residents.
"This place ain't dead yet, but it's got about half a foot in the grave," a resident of Moundsville, West Virginia, tells AP. "The big-money jobs are all gone. We used to have the big mills and the rolling plants, and you could walk out of high school when you were 16 or 17 and get a $15-an-hour job." Without new investment to create jobs, demographers predict that Appalachia will continue to empty out, as will the Great Plains and large swaths of the South.