Date of this Version
Many rural communities have experienced population losses during the past decade. Coupled with the aging population, this has resulted in many communities struggling to remain viable. However, improvements in technology have presented many opportunities for the rural areas to grow and prosper. Given these changes, how do rural Nebraskans feel about their community? Are they planning to move from their community in the next year?
This report details 3,199 responses to the 2001 Nebraska Rural Poll, the sixth annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions regarding their community and their plans to move or stay in their community. Trends for the community questions are examined by comparing data from the five previous polls to this year’s results. For all questions, comparisons are made among different respondent subgroups, i.e., comparisons by age, occupation, region, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Rural Nebraskans have increasingly stated that their community has remained the same. This year, 53 percent state their community has remained the same during the past year, compared to 38 percent in 1996. Conversely, the proportion saying their community has changed for the better has declined from 38 percent in 1996 to 28 percent this year. The proportion saying their community has changed for the worse has remained fairly steady across all six years.
• Farmers and ranchers are less likely than persons with different occupations to believe their community has changed for the better during the past year. Only 18 percent of the farmers and ranchers say their community has changed for the better, compared to 39 percent of the persons with administrative support positions.
• Respondents living in larger communities are more likely than the persons living in smaller communities to state their community has changed for the better. Thirty-four percent of the persons living in communities with populations of 5,000 or more say their community has changed for the better, compared to only 16 percent of the persons living in communities with less than 500 people.
• The majority of rural Nebraskans rate their community as friendly, trusting, and supportive. Seventy-two percent rate their community as friendly, 62 percent say their community is trusting, and 62 percent rate their community as supportive.
• Over one-third of rural Nebraskans are dissatisfied with the following services and amenities in their community: entertainment, retail shopping, streets, and restaurants. Service and amenities residents are most satisfied with include parks and recreation, basic medical care services, library services, and education (K - 12).
• Younger respondents report being more dissatisfied with their city/village government as compared with older respondents. Thirty-eight percent of the persons between the ages of 19 and 39 are dissatisfied with their city/village government, compared to 24 percent of the persons age 65 and older.
• Persons living in the Panhandle are more likely than those living elsewhere to be dissatisfied with their airline service. Thirty-one percent of the Panhandle residents are dissatisfied with their airline service, as compared to only 11 percent of the residents in the Southeast region of the state.
• Only four percent of the respondents are planning to move from their community in the next year. This proportion has remained fairly steady during the past four years.
• The proportion of younger rural Nebraskans planning to move from their community has increased from last year. In 2000, 10 percent of the persons age 19 to 29 were planning to move from their community and 10 percent were uncertain. This year, 18 percent are planning to move and 13 percent are uncertain.
• The rural Nebraskans who are planning to move from their community are increasingly planning to move to the metropolitan areas of the state. The proportion of persons planning to move to either the Lincoln or Omaha metropolitan areas has steadily increased during the past three years. In 1999, 10 percent of the expected movers planned to move to the metropolitan areas, compared to 18 percent this year. The proportion of expected movers planning to leave the state has decreased since 1999 (from 52 percent to 44 percent).
• The younger respondents are more likely than the older respondents to be planning to move from their community in the next year. Eighteen percent of the persons age 19 to 29 are planning to leave their community, compared to only three percent of the persons age 65 and older. Thirteen percent of the younger respondents are undecided about their plans to move.
• The top three ranked factors influencing rural Nebraskans’ decisions to move from their community are: lack of economic opportunities in their current community, for lower taxes, and to find a better job. Seventy-two percent of those either planning to move or considering a move cite a lack of economic opportunities in their community as being “very important” or “somewhat important” in influencing their decision to move, 67 percent want to move to lower their taxes, and 66 percent are looking to find a better job.
• Approximately one-third of rural Nebraskans say “to find a better job” is the most important factor influencing their decision to move from their community in the next year. Thirty-two percent identify this item as the most important factor influencing their decision to move. Eleven percent cite the following factors as being the most important factors influencing their move: being closer to relatives, for lower taxes and a reason other than those listed.
• Economic opportunities are more important considerations for the younger persons as compared to the considerations influencing older respondents’ migration decisions. The top reasons influencing the decision to move for the persons under the age of 50 are: lack of economic opportunities, for lower taxes, and to find a better job. The persons age 65 and older who are considering a move cite the following reasons: for lower taxes, to lower cost of living, better access to health care, and for a more desirable climate.