Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

A rural brain gain migration

A father and his two young children fishing in a rural town.
Two parents and their child walking in a small town neighborhood.
A father and son sitting by boxes after moving to a rural town.

Key research findings

  • The population of residents ages 30 - 49 years old has increased in rural Minnesota counties.
  • These newcomers have significant education, skills, connections, spending power and children.
  • People migrate to rural communities for 1) a simpler life, 2) safety and security, 3) affordable housing, 4) outdoor recreation and 5) quality schools.
  • Communities can work together to attract newcomers and create a quality of life that all residents enjoy.

The changing demographics of rural Minnesota

High school graduates often leave small towns. They go to college. Or get jobs in the city. But census data shows that many come back to rural areas — often in their 30s and 40s. And they come with college degrees, work experience, professional contacts and children.

Some lifetime city dwellers move to rural areas, too. They are eager to make a new life in a rural community. These educated and skilled residents moving or returning to rural areas are a part of the brain gain.

“There are people choosing to move to your town for what you are today and what you will be — not what you were.”

— Ben Winchester

About the rural brain gain

What does this demographic trend mean for communities? View the following video and listen to the podcast playlist to learn more.




Discover more about this trend and find examples of current resident-recruitment initiatives in Minnesota in the resources below.

The brain gain trend




Brain gain in action



  • ReGen is a rural organization that's working to grow their community's social connections.


Partner with us

How can we work with your community? Following are some ways we provide education on rural demographic changes and work with communities to attract new residents.

⇒ Locally-hosted education

Extension teaches rural communities about the brain gain trend. Bring a presentation to your community by contacting an educator in your area.

⇒ Creating recruitment initiatives

Extension helps communities welcome newcomers and create a quality of life enjoyed by all residents. Learn about our Making it Home program and creating a community plan to recruit new neighbors.

The research behind the trend

We are doing research to learn more about rural newcomers. Dive into the following reports and read our findings.

New research: Rewriting the Rural Narrative, chapter nine of the book Rural Areas in Transition — read about the 2019 survey of rural Minnesota movers.

Brain gain in the news

Read recent articles from communities and residents below. Hear in their own words how the brain gain trend impacts their lives.

Contact us

To learn more about this research, contact Ben Winchester.

Page survey

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.