'Rural is not dying': Quality of life is driving migration to Montana, says survey

EMILY SCHABACKER

Montanans throughout the state are feeling the population squeeze as affordable housing evaporates and newcomers bring in wealth and remote work from other states. The change isn’t just the talk of the town, but has also promoted a number of research initiatives to determine where people are coming from and why they’re choosing Montana.

Results from a newly published survey showed that most of Montana’s migrants, both from out of state and within, are giving rural communities a try for quality of life reasons, according to Tara Mastel, Montana State University Extension associate specialist for community development.

Contrary to popular belief, those moving to rural towns have never lived there before, meaning people aren’t necessarily moving back home. Of those who moved to a new zip code in a rural place, 76% said they had never lived in that community before.

“Rural is not dying,” Mastel said, adding that local leaders have yet to take action on the positive trends playing out in rural communities.

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From Montana’s centralized list of property owners, Mastel and her team sent surveys to residences that had a change of ownership from

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