More than 160 rural communities that account for more than half of incorporated municipalities in South Dakota had either flat or flagging populations between 2010 and 2017, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
De Smet is one of those communities, the Argus Leader reported . The city is held back by its lack of housing for newcomers, said Rita Anderson, director of the De Smet Development Corporation.
“Our population could grow,” Anderson said. “I have people calling me daily for housing, but when we don’t have it our population can’t grow.”
Jobs and housing are often major barriers for rural communities to reverse population declines, said Jessica Schad, who researches rural population patterns at South Dakota State University.
“They don’t have amenities that attract new people,” Schad said. “They don’t have some of the health facilities that people need, so we don’t see people moving there and we also see the young people leaving.”
Rural counties in the middle of South Dakota experienced some of the largest population declines during the seven-year period. Hyde County saw a 7 percent population decrease and Hand County lost 4.5 percent of its population.
Beadle County has seen a 4.4 increase over the same period.
Most counties showing significant growth are located near a large metro area or a major university. Lincoln County, which covers southern Sioux Falls, saw a more than 26 percent population growth in the last seven years. Brookings, the city where South Dakota State University is located, added nearly 1,900 people since the 2010 census.
Schad said the state’s patterns match the rest of the United States. Population loss doesn’t mean that communities aren’t strong, she said.
De Smelt has welcomed new jobs by attracting manufacturers to its recently-built industrial park, Anderson said.
Anderson said, “We’ve seen several young people that have moved to the community in the past four or five years and it’s really been encouraging to us.”