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Socioeconomic Factors

Introduction - Historical Overview - Socioeconomic Profile

Socioeconomic Profile - Projected Trends

Introduction | Social and Demographic Factors | The Economy | Projected Trends

Watson Farm, a working farm since 1789, raises cattle and sheep and produces hay, vegetables, and compost.
Waterfront development along Point Judith Pond.
Courtesy: NOAA

The population of Rhode Island is projected to grow only slightly over the next couple of decades. Projections developed by the Census Bureau show the U.S. population growing by 28 percent, from 262 million persons in the year 2000 to 335 million in 2025, at an average annual rate of 0.8 percent. When national projections are disaggregated to the state level based on purely demographic factors, the population of Rhode Island is projected to grow only by 143,000 persons (14 percent) through 2025, at an average annual rate of 0.45 percent. When they are disaggregated to the state level using a methodology that also considers projected employment, Rhode Island's population is projected to grow by only 18,000 persons (two percent) through 2025, at an average annual growth rate of 0.06 percent. The state's own projections of growth fall between these two extremes, showing an increase of 50,000 persons (five percent) and an average annual growth rate of 0.11 percent.

This does not mean that demographic factors will have little effect on land use patterns for the next 20 years. In recent decades, development greatly outpaced population growth. Between 1970 and 1995, the population of Rhode Island grew by only seven percent but residential land use increased by 57 percent. Much of this is the result of intra-state migration of the more affluent from urban centers to lower-density suburban developments. A continuation of this trend will lead to cities with increasing concentrations of low-income families in urban centers characterized by declining property values, increasing tax rates, and a growing number of vacant lots–there are already 11,000 vacant lots in the state's five most densely populated cities (Governor's Growth Planning Council 2001).

This flight to the suburbs can leave deep marks on the natural environment. Farmland and forests have given way to highways and, to a far greater degree, homes. Residential use has been the most rapidly growing category of land use since the 1960s, despite modest population growth. Furthermore, as Rhode Island's population migrated toward the rural parts of the state, so did the employment centers and industrial activities (Rhode Island State Planning Program 2000).

The greatest short-term (through 2008) gains in employment are projected in the services, retail trade, and construction sectors of the economy, with continued modest declines projected for durable and non-durable manufacturing. Total employment is projected to increase by almost 60,000 between 1998 and 2008, with 60 percent of the increase occurring in the services sector, and another 27 percent in retail trade. Modest growth is projected for other sectors of the economy, except for government employment, which is projected to decline slightly (Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training 2000).

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Governor's Growth Planning Council (Rhode Island). 2001. Annual Report.

Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. 2000. "Rhode Island 2008: Growth by Major Occupational Cluster" Web page (http://www.det.state.ri.us/webdev/lmi/2008occmaj.html). Providence, Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program. 2000. Growth Challenges for the New Mellenium: Balancing the Options. Rhode Island Department of Administration, Cranston, Rhode Island.

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Project Partner web pages - RIHRT, CRMC, NBEP, STB

This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®