UT Study: How Influx of Retirees Affect Rural Communities

KNOXVILLE – The first baby boomers turn 60 in 2006, and researchers estimate that, nationwide, during the next 18 years about 400,000 of them — with an average of $320,000 to spend on new homes — will retire beyond their state borders.

Many rural counties throughout the South have hopes of spurring economic development by attracting retirees who will build houses and spend money locally.

UT’s Institute for Public Service (IPS) and Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) recently completed a study about the impact these retirees — termed “in-migrant retirees” (IMRs) — have on a rural community. The idea for the study came out of community forums on rural development that IPS hosted in 2006.

“Community leaders need to know what to expect, not only with respect to economic impact over time, but also how an influx of retirees will affect the demand for public services and the quality of life within their community. They need a balanced perspective that incorporates the positive and the negative impacts, and also recognizes the need to adjust to the inevitable changes that will accompany the new residents,” said Mary Jinks, associate vice president of IPS.

Many retirees are already choosing to make their homes in Tennessee.

Census data from 1995–2000 indicates Tennessee ranked seventh nationally, with nearly 10,500 more people age 65 and older having moved into the state than having moved out. Cumberland County is already home to an estimated 11,000 IMRs, representing 21.5 percent of the county’s total population.

Using Cumberland County as an example, IPS collaborated with UT’s Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) to research the long-term effects IMRs have in a rural community.

UTIA researchers collected information through personal interviews, telephone surveys and focus group discussions with more than 700 Cumberland County residents. Those polled included long-time local residents, as well as those who moved to the area from outside Tennessee.

The study tracks the impact retirees have made in Cumberland County since the 1960s, when two large residential developments first started attracting out-of-state retirees to the rural area. UT researchers examined the effects in-migrant retirees have on employment, local government finances, health care, public education and social and quality-of-life issues.

UT consultants and researchers will discuss the findings with Crossville and Cumberland County officials Friday, Feb. 9, in the Community Room at the Crossville Housing Authority Center, 67 Irwin Ave., Crossville. UT Vice President for Agriculture Joseph DiPietro also will attend the event. The report will be distributed to local government officials and economic development agencies statewide. The report also will be available after Feb. 9 at www.ips.tennessee.edu


Contacts:
Queena Jones, (865) 974-1533, queena.jones@tennessee.edu
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu