The Annals of Regional Science

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 343–353 | Cite as

Are small communities at risk of population loss?

  • Yong ChenEmail author
  • Lena Etuk
  • Bruce Weber
Original Paper


Small communities almost universally worry about out-migration and the negative effects of out-migration on community viability. Using Oregon community-level data and applying the threshold estimation method of Hansen (Econometrica 68(3):575–603, 2000), we are able to identify population thresholds that distinguish small communities from their larger counterparts based on significant structural differences in factors affecting net migration. Our results suggest that smaller communities are more at risk of population decline than larger ones. After controlling for spatial spillovers from neighboring communities, the average net migration rate is 3 % in the larger communities (roughly above 5,000 population), 2 % in the mid-sized communities (roughly between 1,250 and 5,000) and \(-3\) % in the smallest communities (roughly less than 1,250). Other things equal, geographic isolation from large cities and low wage rates provide some protection from net out-migration for the smallest communities, but even for the smallest places, a larger population base lowers the risk of net out-migration.

JEL Classification

O18 R11 



This research is partially supported by the Economic Research Service of the United State Department of Agriculture through the Cooperative Agreement No. 58-6000-0-0053 and by the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. We are deeply indebted to the insightful comments and suggestions of an anonymous reviewer, whose critique greatly improved the quality of the analysis. We also benefited from the assistance and perceptive comments of Mallory Rahe. Kristin Chatfield provided excellent research assistance. We are of course responsible for any errors or omissions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.College of Public Health and Human SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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