Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

October 1997


Published in Great Plains Research 7:2 (Fall 1997). Copyright © 1997 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The counties of the Texas Great Plains have been part of a depopulation of the rural "heartland" of the United States. This paper traces the loss of population in these counties since 1910 and tries to account for the reasons underlying the trend. Four major groups of variables are analyzed through stepwise regression to determine their relative conceptual importance: demographic factors (age-structure and percent Hispanic), environmental factors (annual rainfall, percent irrigated land, and amount of oil production), geographic factors (distance to an urban central place and population size of a county's central place) and socioeconomic factors (lack of diversification of local economy, per capita income and percent of population with a high school diploma). The percent of the population greater than 65 years was most closely associated, both as a cause and effect, with depopulation. Probing beyond this somewhat inherently linked demographic variable, the next most important factor underlying depopulation was the distance of a county to a major metropolitan area. Also associated with depopulation were the lack of economic diversification, insufficient water supply and lower levels of income.