Significant portions of the rural U.S. are struggling with out-migration and subsequent population loss. The U.S. energy system is also undergoing a very fundamental transition with the marked decline of the coal industry and the growth of natural gas and renewables. Although the collapse of coal holds many benefits in terms of public health and environmental quality, it could exacerbate problems of population loss. In this analysis, we evaluate how the pending collapse of the coal industry in western Colorado could influence migration intentions using survey data. We find that the decline of the coal industry likely has no substantive influence on migration intentions. Our findings suggest that the collapse of the coal industry will likely not lead to significant out-migration from rural places.

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