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K-State Today

January 25, 2019

Sociologist provides testimony to Kansas House Committee on Rural Revitalization

Submitted by Karen Rundquist

Matthew R. Sanderson, Randall C. Hill distinguished professor of sociology, anthropology, and social work and professor of sociology, provided testimony on demographic trends in rural Kansas to the new House Committee on Rural Revitalization in a public session on Thursday, Jan. 17.

Sanderson's presentation highlighted trends in fertility, mortality and migration in rural Kansas, focusing especially on the 2010-2017 period. Rural Kansas continues to confront significant challenges with declining birth rates, higher death rates, and ongoing aging of the population, resulting in continued losses of the working age population, age 25-64. These trends have accelerated since 2010, making rural revitalization a more urgent challenge. Sanderson emphasized two potential areas for optimism: slight growth in the young adult populations, aged 20-40, and foreign-born immigration, which continues to support population growth in rural Kansas, and Kansas more broadly. Looking forward, projections indicate that retaining young adults and attracting immigrants, both domestic and international, to Kansas will be essential to sustaining rural Kansas communities.

The Committee on Rural Revitalization is a standing committee formed this legislative session to address issues tied to depopulation of rural Kansas communities such as health care, broadband availability, sustainability of water resources, transportation networks and access to agricultural markets. The committee will also evaluate economic incentives such as the Rural Opportunity Zones to determine effectiveness and gaps in tax programs that attract business growth. The 17-member committee is chaired by Rep. Don Hineman, Dighton.

For more information on Sanderson; the rural sociology program at K-State; Community, Agriculture, Food, and Environment, or CAFÉ; and the sociology, anthropology, and social work department, visit k-state.edu/sasw/faculty/sanderson.html.