Rural exodus

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Rural flight (or rural exodus) is a term used to describe the migratory patterns of peoples from rural areas into urban areas.

In modern times, it often occurs in a region following the industrialization of agriculture when fewer people are needed to bring the same amount of agricultural output to market and related agricultural services and industries are consolidated. Rural flight is exacerbated when the population decline leads to the loss of rural services such as stores and schools, which then leads to greater loss of population.

The rationale being this phenomenom was first articulated through Ravenstein's Laws of migration in the 1880s, upon which modern theories are based.


In the United States and Canada

The term is used in the United States and Canada to describe the flight of people from rural areas in the Great Plains and Midwest regions, and to a lesser extent rural areas of the northeast and southeast.

Historical trends

The shift from mixed subsistence farming to commoditized crop and livestock began in the late 19th century. New capital market systems and the railroad network began the trend towards larger farms that employed fewer people per acre. These larger farms used more efficient technologies such as Deere plows, automatic reapers, and higher-yield seed stock, which reduced human input per unit of production.[2] During the Dust Bowl and Great Depression of the 1930s, large numbers of people fled rural areas of the Plains and Midwest because of depressed commodity prices, high debt load, and several years of drought and large dust storms.[3] Rural flight from the Great Plains has been depicted in literature, such as John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), in which a family from the Great Plains migrates to California during the Dust Bowl period of the 1930s.

Modern rural flight

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