If you build it, will they come? Biofuel plants and demographic trends in the Midwest
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The rural United States has suffered long-term population decline over the past several decades, especially in farming communities. In recent years, biofuel production has been argued to hold potential for the revitalization of rural America and in response, many rural communities have eagerly attempted to attract ethanol plants as a local development effort. This study conceptualizes economic revitalization in terms of population dynamics and investigates whether the establishment of a biofuel plant has been associated with changes in population aging, natural increase, and/or migration trends in the West North Central United States, the location of the majority of the nation’s biofuel plants. Using path dependence as a conceptual framework and aggregate statistics from a variety of sources, results from spatial regression models indicate that despite initial expectations, ethanol plants have no association with the demographic trajectories of rural counties.