Washington’s rural population grew 9.4% in last decade; urban population grew 14.7%.

Over the last several years, issues relating to what has been dubbed the urban-rural divide received a lot of attention, particularly as the gravitational pull of major metros seemed to be drawing people and jobs from smaller communities. Some of that concern appears to have been overstated.

Although rural population growth in Washington lags urban growth, 9.4% and 14.7% respectively (see map), Washington’s rural communities have grown much more than rural parts of other states.

The map comes from a Pew Stateline article examining rural population growth. The article looks at the political dimension.

As states turn to drawing new state legislative and congressional districts after census numbers come out Aug. 12, they’re likely to find that rural, generally conservative areas have shrunk in the past 10 years and stand to lose power in statehouses and Congress.

A Stateline analysis of recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates shows rural areas lost 226,000 people, a decline of about .5%, between 2010 and 2020, while cities and suburbs grew by about 21 million people, or 8%. Only Hawaii, where retirees and remote workers are moving to rural islands, and Montana, which is drawing remote workers from pricey Washington state, saw more rural than urban growth.

And, yes, there’s been some movement from “pricey Washington.” But the state’s 9.4% rural growth is far better than the national 0.5% decline. In addition to the interactive map, the article allows you to build a table comparing states. We selected Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho (below).

It might surprise some – it did us – to see Washington outdoing Oregon and Idaho in rural growth. 

California’s loss is less surprising.