Digitally-thriving rural communities see Millennial upswing
April 11, 2018 by Blandin Foundation
New research is challenging the persistent narrative that rural is losing its young people to the big city. A Daily Yonder article by researchers Roberto Gallardo, Robert Bell and Norman Jacknis highlight findings that point to a millennial surge in rural communities with a low Digital Divide Index score, which means the location is well served by broadband connections and the population demonstrates adoption — or use — of the Internet.
Among these counties, about 420 in total, those with the lowest digital divide experienced a 13.5 percent increase in millennials between 2010 and 2016. In other words, in the nation’s “most rural” counties, the millennial population increased significantly when those counties had better broadband access.
This finding is important because it could signal future migration trends due to technology-driven economic decentralization — the ability for people to work where they want because of access to broadband and technology needed to perform a job. But this will not happen without quality broadband.
Whether or not decentralization will take place remains to be seen. What is clear though is that (while other factors are having an impact, as well) any community attempting to retain or attract millennials need to address their digital divide, both in terms of broadband access and adoption/use.
In other words, our data analysis suggests that if a rural area has widely available and adopted broadband, it can start to successfully attract or retain millennials.
This research finding is being noticed at the local level in communities that have invested time and resources in broadband access and adoption. Last year, Blandin Foundation commissioned research to look at the value of broadband investment to five counties in Minnesota. Population trends were but one measure that demonstrated the impact of broadband access and use in rural Minnesota.
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