Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/647

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THE DECREASE OF RURAL POPULATION.

land States combined, and not ten per cent less than that of Great Britain. Of the 141 counties into which this tract is divided, no less than 138 have lost rural population since 1880; and the average increase in the three increasing counties, which form enclaves within it, has been less than three and three quarters per cent. The following is the result of a comparison of the rural population in 1880 and 1890 of the 141 counties as a whole:

Rural population 1880 2,582,620
Rural population 1890 2,402,876
Decrease 179,744

The percentage of decrease of rural population in this rich, fertile, and comparatively lately settled section of the country is 6·96, or about one fifth less than in New York. The decrease is especially general in the counties immediately bordering on the Mississippi River. For example, every Mississippi River county in Iowa has lost rural population. Of the sixteen counties on the west bank from Dakota County, Minnesota, to Clark County, Missouri, inclusive, there is not one which had more rural inhabitants in 1890 than in 1880; and of the seventeen on the east bank, lying between the northern boundary of Crawford County, Wisconsin, and the southern boundary of Randolph County, Illinois, there was but one. Speaking generally, southern and eastern Iowa lost rural population during the decade, while northern and western Iowa, still in 1880 comparatively thinly settled, have gained, and in some sections largely. In the State as a whole, however, there has been a decrease of such population in no less than forty-three out of its ninety-nine counties. Such a showing in a trans-Mississippi State not yet half a century in the Union is one well calculated to arrest attention.

Whether the prohibition laws, which have been in force during the greater part of the decade, have been unfavorable to the growth of this State or not, it is certain that their existence has not been the chief cause of the decrease just mentioned, for, if in prohibition Iowa 43 out of 99 counties have a diminished rural population, in Illinois, in which prohibition does not exist, the same fate has overtaken 60 out of its 102 counties, a still larger proportion of the whole. And Illinois is the principal farming State in the Union. Almost all the northwestern part of the last-named State has fewer rural inhabitants than in 1880. In some of its northern and central portions, the area in which there has been a decrease of rural population in the decade extends entirely across the State, from the Mississippi River to the Indiana border. If the southern boundary of Iroquois County, Illinois, lay five miles south, or the northern boundary of Warren County, Indiana, the same distance north of its actual position, the great