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Troubling Census Results; Is There A Ray Of Hope?

August 19th, 2021

Long-awaited results from the 2020 U.S. Census were released last week, documenting a troubling trend that has challenged elected officials, community leaders, employers and educators for some time. Entering the new decade, Potter County was losing population while its median age continued to rise. Population fell by more than six percent between 2010 (17,457) and 2020 (16,396). The 65-and-older population grew by 33 percent, while the proportion of those under 18 fell by nine percent. Average Potter County resident was 47.3 years old in 2020; the figure was 45.0 in 2010. Pennsylvania’s statewide median age is 40.6. Outmigration by younger segments of the population, coupled with death rates surpassing birth rates, are driving the numbers. About five people die for every four babies born in the county.

Population loss has a ripple effect on the economy. Not only do the tax base and local spending decline, the Census Bureau estimates that for every person who’s lost, a county receives $10,000 less in federal and state funds through more than 50 grant programs, including support for education, transportation, health and human services, housing, criminal justice, employment services and environmental protection.

There are signs of a potential turnaround, according to reports presented at recent meetings of the Potter County Tourism and Recreation Work Group. The housing market in Potter County came to life in 2020, due at least in part to people leaving more populated areas in the early stages of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Another notable trend is the increased number of “telecommuters” who have moved to Potter County, where they can work at home through a high-speed internet connection. Documentation will not be available until the U.S. Census Bureau and Pennsylvania State Data Center issue their next population estimates

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