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Beyond Iowa Nice: When it Comes to Growth, There are Two Iowas

Liesl Eathington, Iowa State University
Population changes in Iowa between 2010-2014

You probably can’t go out for sushi nearby, and it might take an hour to get to a discount store but for some the benefits of living in rural Iowa more than outweigh those inconveniences. At the same time more and more Iowans are drawn to city life. According to Dave Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, the numbers prove that true.  

“Just this decade, 71 of Iowa’s 99 counties have posted 2015 populations smaller than they were in 2010. That’s a trend that’s continued for at least two decades now,” he says.

We export three crops: Corn, soybeans and young people. -Sociologist Paul Lasley on brain drain in rural Iowa

“If you break it down by population growth, the state of Iowa has grown by 2.5% this decade. The metropolitan counties, have grown by 5.4%, more than twice as much as the state average. That tells you what’s going on with the rest of the state,” says Swenson.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Swenson and Paul Lasley, a rural sociologist with Iowa State University.

Jess Toliver, superintendent of Eagle Grove Schools, and Tessa Cantonwine, who grew up near Osceola and then moved to a more urban part of Iowa after high school, also join the conversation.

Did you grow up in rural Iowa? Did you love it, or did you leave? During this hour on Talk of Iowa, we discuss quality of life in rural Iowa, why people leave, and why people stay. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa