The Value of Rural Communities

  • What is “Rural?” (USDA. Updated May 2016. Original edition: 2006) USDA acknowledges there are many definitions of “rural” and often selects a specific definition based upon the purpose of an activity. Often, “rural” is defined more by what it is not, rather than what it is. In other words, metro/urban areas are first defined and then, “rural” is defined by exclusion — any area that is not metro/urban is non-metro/rural. “The General Accounting Office, in its publication Rural Development: Profile of Rural Areas, pp. 26-31, discusses the three most common Federal definitions of rural:
    1. Dept. of Commerce’s Bureau of Census
    2. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
    3. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS)                


  • Rural America Matters to All Americans. (Zwagerman, Jennifer. The Conversation. January 19, 2017). This article contains great stats: “Rural America is important to all Americans because it is a primary source for inexpensive and safe food, affordable energy, clean drinking water and accessible outdoor recreation”
    • About three-quarters of the United States is considered rural, but only 14 percent of the population lives there.
    • Farming and Agricultural production… [make] up 6% of the overall economy and provides ~10% of U.S. employment.
    • U.S. Agricultural exports are expected to reach more than US$130 billion in 2017.
    • Americans spend just over 6% of household income on food, as compared to other developed countries such as Canada (9.2%), Germany (10.22%), France (13.3%) and Italy (14.2).


  • Rural America at a Glance (USDA -Economic Research Service 2017 Edition). “…[Rural areas’] employment increased modestly since 2011… and Infrastructure investments, like expanding broadband internet access, could improve future economic performance…[however,] many rural areas face unique challenges…Overall, the rural population is shrinking for the first time on record, due to several factors, including long-term outmigration of young adults, fewer births, increased mortality among working-age adults, and an aging population. Also, reclassification of fast-growing counties from rural to urban impacts statistics….Rural employment has not returned to its pre-recession level, and job growth since 2011 has been well below the urban growth rate. Median incomes remain below those of urban areas, and rural poverty rates are higher.”                           



  • 10 Factors Shaping Rural America, CoBank Research Shows an Improving Outlook for the [Nation’s] Rural economy.  (Corn and Soybean Digest, January 8, 2018). The report offers a look at the following 10 key factors that will shape rural communities and the market sectors that support them. Note: this was written before Trump’s trade and tariff announcements.


  • Where Is “Rural” America,” and What Does It Look Like?  (The Conversation, February 20, 2017). “Rural America” is a deceptively simple term for a remarkably diverse collection of places. It includes nearly 72 percent of the land area of the United States and 46 million people..”Rural people and issues generally receive little attention from the urban-centric media and policy elites. Yet, rural America makes unique contributions to the nation’s character and culture as well as provides most of its food, raw materials, drinking water and clean air.”



  • The Divide Between America’s Prosperous Cities and Struggling Small Towns—in 20 Charts. (Wall Street Journal, 12/29/17).  “About 1 in 7 Americans lives in rural parts of the country—1,800 counties that sit outside any metropolitan area. A generation ago, most of these places had working economies, a strong social fabric and a way of life that drew a steady stream of urban migrants. Today, many are in crisis. Populations are aging, more working-age adults collect disability, and trends in teen pregnancy and divorce are diverging for the worse from metro areas. Deaths by suicide and Maternity are on the rise. Bank lending and buisness startups are falling behind. There is the data that tells the story.” (Note; article only accessible to Wall Street Journal subscribers).