Despite Downward Population Trends, Many Still Fighting for Rural Nebraska

We’ve shown the numbers. Populations are declining and they’re getting older. Schools are needing to be creative to manage the situation. But, many are still fighting for the continuance of rural Nebraska’s small towns and the lifestyle they afford.

“So there’s a tradeoff that’s made in that particular preference (of) what community do I want to live in,” Developmental Sociologist Dr. Randy Cantrell said. “And in general, people that choose to live in smaller places put a higher value, I believe, on those social relationships.”

Developmental Sociologist Randy Cantrell is talking about how living in a small community allows a resident to know the background of most everyone they interact with on a daily basis. He says these relationships plus other quality of life factors are the biggest reason people choose to move to rural Nebraska.

“They make the move to have more time with their family because they’ll have a shorter commute,” Cantrell said. “They make the move to experience less congestion by other people in their lives, on the roads and in the stores and such.”

Executive Director of the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District Tom Higgenbotham was one of those who came back to northeast Nebraska after moving away.

“I left here after high school and lived in Kansas City for awhile and then came back in 1998 because I wanted to raise my family where I grew up,” Higgenbotham said.

Higgenbotham’s story isn’t uncommon. And state senators from out-state Nebraska are advocating on behalf of their communities to make sure stories like Higgenbotham’s continue to occur.

“(It) should be one of our key goals her in Lincoln to grow our state, grow our economy, help to grow our population any way we can,” Senator Tom Briese of Boone said. “Keeping folks in rural Nebraska is one of the keys to helping to grow the state and make our state a great place to live and work and raise families.”

Senator Matt Williams of Gothenburg says he believes citizens shouldn’t have to sacrifice to live in rural areas. He says education and health care, specifically, need to be top notch.

“I think it’s part of the legislature’s responsibility to view those areas in that manner and that we create the opportunities,” Williams said. “At the same time, I call on those local communities, you can do this yourselves.”

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