Why Do Some Small Communities Still Thrive as They Lose Population?

Shrinking populations are usually seen as a sign of community decline. In this NSF-funded project, we explore small and shrinking rural communities in Iowa that have been able to protect quality of life and community services for their residents even as they lose population.

We call these shrink-smart communities.

Our goal is to develop tools to help all small and shrinking communities actively plan for shrinkage before population loss affects their quality of life. To do this, we start with a unique data set, the Iowa Small Town Poll, that has collected quality-of-life data in ninety-nine Iowa communities since 1994. We identified a group of shrinking communities from among the poll towns that scored higher than average on quality-of-life indicators from the 1994, 2004, and 2014 polls. From 2017 to 2019, we studied these communities using qualitative and quantitative methods to learn what makes them great places to live in the opinions of the residents.

Starting in Oct. 2020, we will start phase two of the research with a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Info:

Check back soon for updates about the research plans!