An exodus of young people seeking education, adventure and success in bigger cities, combined with economic upheaval that has left little opportunity for those who stayed behind, has resulted in a dramatic “hollowing out” of North America’s small communities. And worse, by not adapting to this new reality, small towns are playing a big part in their own demise.
Other regions and communities have created incentives designed to draw back their educated young people. Aniko Varpalotai, a professor specializing in rural education at the University of Western Ontario, says St. Thomas, the town she lives in just outside of London, Ont., has used tuition relief and housing benefits to entice several of the medical students who passed through its hospital to stay. In different areas of the U.S., Carr found free land programs, student loan forgiveness and attempts to improve cultural amenities.