Rural depopulation is a concern in many countries, and various policy initiatives have been taken to combat such trends. This article examines whether hidden potential for rural population growth can be found in Sweden. If such potential exists, it implies that the development prospects for many rural areas are not as unpromising as they may seem today. If not, rapid rural depopulation can be expected and policymakers will have to increase their focus on how to lessen problems associated with population decline. We employ a combination of survey data and register data to identify the characteristics of people who have expressed a desire to move to rural areas and compare this population with those who actually do move to these areas. The results show that more people have rural residential preferences than the actual number of migrants to rural areas suggest. The findings indicate that there is a general potential for rural population growth; however, the characteristics of these two groups are similar and we cannot discern any group as constituting this hidden potential. Nonetheless, we argue that this potential is unlikely to be realized in terms of rural population growth and we discuss the further implications of these findings. © 2010, by the Rural Sociological Society.
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