A new study says the population in midwestern rural areas is becoming increasingly male-dominated. Researchers at the University of Nebraska find the proportion of young men in areas with 800 or fewer people in Nebraska and Kansas jumped by nearly 40% as residents aged.
Researcher Robert Shepard says the findings suggest that young women are leaving rural areas after college while men are sticking around.
“There is a lot of awareness that younger people are leaving rural communities,” Shepard said. “Where some of the men can come back, because there are a lot of traditionally male jobs like agriculture and industry to return to, many rural communities don’t often provide the same opportunity to women. As long as that imbalance is there, it’s going to limit the development or growth of that age group.”
Shepherd found a growing proportion of young women in urban areas during the post-college years. Major cities and suburbs, including Omaha and Kansas City, Kan., had nearly equal ratios of males and females in the 22-to-27 age group. In several others, including Topeka, Kan., and Scottsbluff, women outnumbered men in their age group.
College may be a significant reason why many young women leave rural communities, Shepard said. As of 2000, women comprised 56 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds with at least four years of higher education. Social and economic reasons often prevent college graduates from returning home—they may have formed bonds with new people or the rural job market may be unfavorable.