Can Small Town America Survive the End of Cheap Gas?

<p>With few local job opportunities, residents in small towns have grown accustomed to long commutes to cities. But with high gas prices making those commutes unaffordable, some economists wonder how much longer small towns can retain their populations.</p>
July 29, 2008, 9am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"Factories in many towns closed years ago as small companies folded or manufacturers sent jobs overseas. Mom-and-pop stores gave way to Wal-Marts in bigger towns. When those changes occurred, jobs and shopping required trips out of town.

And now, gas prices are at all-time highs.

For thousands of small-town residents across the country who drive long distances to jobs that pay little more than minimum wage, the high cost of gas is making that daily commute cost-prohibitive.

So much so that economists predict that over the next few years, the country could see a migration that would greatly reduce the population of Small Town America - resulting in a painful shift away from lifestyle, family roots, traditions and school ties."

"The expected exodus from small towns, said Don Macke, a widely considered authority on rural economics and head of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Neb., will be far more profound than the gradual erosion that has been going on since World War II. That decline was due to the country's shift away from an agrarian economy and a choice for convenience: People wanted to be closer to jobs, shopping and entertainment.

The new flight, Macke thinks, will be more out of necessity."

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Published on Saturday, June 28, 2008 in The Kansas City Star
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