A study finds rural areas across the Midwest are losing residents, especially in vital age groups.

Jon Bailey, research director at the Center for Rural Affairs, says the center’s latest report shows many areas of the region are being caught between “bookend generations” of the youngest and oldest segments of the population.

“A major implication is that both of those, the youngest and oldest generations, tend to need more services than the middle-age, working generation,” Bailey says. “You have needs for schools and health care and other social and human services that go for the youngest and oldest in our population.”

Bailey says without the working generation, those between the ages of 25 and 55, it would be difficult to fund vital services in rural areas.

“That’s a huge issue for rural communities,” he says. “How are they going to keep up the services that our youngest and our oldest need when the people who work and pay the taxes are increasingly going to larger communities and decreasing in numbers in rural places?”

Bailey says significant federal policy changes are needed to help rural areas bridge the growing gap.

He says, “There’s policy investments we can take, both at the state, local and federal levels, on how to make more investments in rural places to create more businesses and create more jobs and a lot of it is to just take advantage of the advantages that rural communities have.”

The report recommends a Rural Renewal Initiative be created in the next farm bill, and that Congress commit $500-million over five years to a Community Prosperity Fund to help rural areas stabilize.

The Center for Rural Affairs is based in Lyons, Nebraska.

Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton