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.
About the rural brain gain
Learn about this demographic trend and what it means for communities through the videos and podcasts below.
Watch keynote address from Randy Cantrell at the 2014 Symposium on Small Towns.
Hear about migration trends and how communities can attract people who want a small-town lifestyle.
Hear about ReGen, a rural organization that's working to grow their community's social connections.
Work with us
We can educate your community on rural demographic changes and how to attract new residents.
Bring our education to your area
Extension teaches rural communities about the brain gain trend. Bring a presentation to your community by contacting an educator in your area.
Create a recruitment plan
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.
Community stories and conversations
“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
Read articles from communities and residents about the brain gain below. Hear in their own words how this trend impacts their lives.
Stories from Minnesota
(Star Tribune) More than a dozen efforts have popped up to bring in new and young people in Minnesota.
(apolitical) Features the Upper Minnesota Valley rebranding Get Rural campaign.
Stories from around the nation
(Daily Yonder) Stories about newcomers moving to rural Wisconsin and Iowa.
(Yes) Stories about newcomers moving to rural Arizona.
Conversations about living rural
(WKMS public radio) Listen as Ben Winchester talks about small-town living.
(MPR News) Hear Ben Winchester offer data-driven insights to a community in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
(PBS Almanac) Watch a profile on a family that made a surprising move to Waseca (Minnesota) from Portland (Oregon).
(PBS News Hour) Hear Ben Winchester share insight on this trend.
(MPR News) Listen to Ben Winchester speak on the rural economy.
(Pipestone County Star) A series of interviews with residents who are a part of this rural brain gain.
- Eric and Laura Wurster
- Rich and Theresa
- Jason and Erin Gordon
- Brian and Shelley Douty
- Tim and Carmen Paulson
- Thad and Debbie Reinert
- Kyle and Rachel Kuphal
- Scott and Jessie VanderPoel
- Jon and Emily Olson
- Jennifer Martens
- Devyn Mattheis
- Ashley Hoheisel
- Gavin and Jessica Winter
- Michelle Nelson
- Kyle and Sarah Caskey
- Chris and Teresa Agresto
- Ben Denton
- Eric Brockberg
- Sara Evans Priester
- Dr. Gregory Kuehl
About the research
We are doing research to learn more about rural newcomers. Explore the following reports and articles and learn more about our current findings.
- Economic Impact of New Residents (overview)
- Economic Impact of New Residents (full report)
- Regional Recruitment: Strategies to Attract and Retain Newcomers
- New Residents Survey Summary of Results
- Continuing the trend: The Brain Gain of the Newcomers
- Rural Migration: The Brain Gain of the Newcomers
- The Glass Half Full: A New View of Rural Minnesota