Personally, I like statistics. I like baseball stats, basketball stats, stats about the highest mountains or the longest rivers, or even stats about stats. I’ll admit (happily) to being a little bit of a geek about numbers. What can I say? I’m a math teacher.
This week I have a link to a publication by the U.S. Census Bureau. If ever there was a place that generated a mountain of data turned into a volcano of stats, it would be the U.S.C.B.. So if you’re the type who also enjoys a good statistical romp (complete with colorful graphic eye candy), then check out (particularly page 7) this link to some 2010 findings.
If you’re more the type who rolls your eyes at the thought of something that sounds like math (it’s not), or if you just returned from page 7, then I will kindly cut to the chase and mention some highlights here.
Page 7 is a graphic representation of the population change from 2000-2010, by county, in the U.S.. Getting a read on the states is one thing, but seeing things on a county level can be far more telling. The bottom line for the Great Plains is this: The vast majority (90%?) of counties in this region are on the losing side of the population equation, and many by a significant amount. This is true from north to south with a few notable exceptions; namely the Black Hills area, and a few counties in western North Dakota (probably due to the Bakkan oil field speculation). The rest of the region is losing population to the tune of about 10% as near as I can eyeball it. Now, I know what Mark Twain said about statistics (see title), but in this case, I think it’s all more or less true.
What does this mean? I would say that it means two things: It means that the Great Plains is one of a few places in the U.S. where you can find some real big peace and quiet (and therefore a certain type of recreation opportunity), and it also means that when people leave, they take the economy with them. For the people who remain, any sources for economic growth have to be seriously considered.
My humble proposal for economic growth is as follows: Recreation via hiking, biking, or horseback riding along a long distance trail.
Think about it. There are no downsides.