Penn State Harrisburg researchers receive grants to study PA populations

Rural Pennsylvania farmland
Credit: Adobe Stock

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Bing Ran, associate professor of public administration, and Philip Sirinides, director of the college’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs and associate professor of education, recently received grants from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to study Pennsylvania populations. Both studies will provide insight into the implications of the changing population in Pennsylvania.

Ran will examine population decline in rural Pennsylvania and the factors that cause residents to either remain in the state’s rural communities or migrate to other locations. Ran will collaborate with Joe Hafer, assistant professor of public and nonprofit administration at the University of Memphis and alum of Penn State Harrisburg’s doctoral program in public administration.

Ran plans to use multiple online surveys to estimate the number of people who are willing to relocate to rural Pennsylvania, understand the characteristics of those people, and gain insight on respondent lures and barriers to relocating to rural areas.

Ran said he hopes this research will provide state and local government policymakers and administrators with actionable information to reverse declining populations in rural areas. 

“I’m interested in helping Pennsylvania policymakers to identify important factors and considerations that increase the likelihood of individuals relocating from urban to rural areas,” he said. 

Sirinides will work with the Pennsylvania State Data Center (PaSDC) and Director Sue Copella. According to the researchers, their study focuses on a look forward, to determine how the state’s population is expected to change over the next 30 years. The study will produce state and county population projections, by 5-year age and gender cohorts. They will develop a model that projects population based on trends and typologies in fertility, survivorship, group quarters, and migration. 

Information on how the state’s population is expected to change is needed to plan for schools, transportation, childcare and senior care, work force development, and many other areas of importance to Pennsylvanians, Sirinides said, noting that the approach “has produced the population projections with an accuracy rate of over 98% over the last four decades.”