Woodstock Generation Going Up the Country

They might not have known it but Canned Heat’s classic Going Up the Country at the now 40 year-old festival was prognostic – at least in terms of where the Woodstock generation would be moving in the 2010s. John Cromartie and Peter Nelson’s recently released USDA report – Baby Boom Migration and Its Impact on Rural America – says that the baby boomers have already shown more affinity for moving to rural and small town destinations than older or younger cohorts. As many boomers end child-rearing duties, enter peak employment earnings and ponder retirement options they are now poised to significantly increase the population of 55-75 year olds in rural and small town America through 2020, with major social and economic implications for their chosen locations.

Between 2010 and 2020 boomers will make more than 200 million residential moves, most being within or between metro regions, where 80 percent of this cohort now reside. However, net migration to core metro counties is projected to decline by 643,000 during the 2010s, a dramatic shift from a population gain of 979,000 during the 90s. In the countryside the population of 55-75 year olds will increase two-thirds, from 8.6 million to 14.2 million between 2000 and 2020.

The big winners of course are those rural places with high levels of natural amenities and affordable housing that are already popular as second-home destinations. For these areas the economic future looks good as a potential influx of spending power and seasoned, footloose talent boosts development prospects.