Our Young People are Leaving

Fashion show from local small business using young models
Fashion show from local small business using young models

In an email, the writer asked:

  • Why are young people leaving their small towns? 
  • What can rural communities do, or are doing, to compete? 

Why are young people leaving? 

Here’s just a few things people told us in The Survey of Rural Challenges about why youth are leaving: 

  • This town experiences many of the same challenges as other towns this size – bored youth who can’t wait to leave, housing shortages, petty property crime. This is a time when the choices we make will have a huge effect on our quality of life in the future.
  • Population is aging as youth move out and few options for work or play to move back.
  • We have several new, younger families, and it should be possible to do some dynamic things…however, there is not a cohesive factor anywhere to be found. 
  • Keeping the younger generation around is key to this town’s survival; at least so they feel like they can return, after upper-education, etc… Whatever brings ’em back. 
  • The leaders in town need to learn to work collaboratively instead of constantly fighting with each other, or worrying about who gets the credit. It will be hard to attract young people, those of childbearing age if the K-12 system is not improved.
  • The downtown looks dead. We need to revitalize old buildings and make it easier for people to start up new businesses. We need updated playground equipment at the fairgrounds and more activities for our youth including teens. 
  • Young people want to live here but experienced business people will not give young people with little experience career opportunities.
  •  Younger families and “tree changers” moving in post pandemic due to flexibility working from home, and proximity to a large provincial town. 
  • Our community is purposeful about encouraging our youth to come back.   We have a variety of commerce that attracts blue & white collar positions.
  • I am trying incentives to attract new people and retain youth.

Youth Market in Delaware County

What can you do about retaining and/or bringing back youth? 

Existing local career engagement, entrepreneurship and bringing them back home are 3 ideas to retain youth. In fact, we’ve written about it before. 

Existing local career engagement:


Bringing them back home:

Find more youth articles at SmallBizSurvival for ideas, inspiration and practical advice: 

youth newcomers

People who moved to Mt. Ayr, Iowa meet regularly and are creating change and business in town.