The Value of Rural Communities

  • What is “Rural?” (Updated May, 2016. Original edition: 2006) USDA acknowledges there are many definitions of “rural” and often selects a specific definition based upon the purpose 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 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.”                           
  • Note: USDA-ERS data considers most of California to have metro (i.e., non-rural) counties.                                                                                                  
  • 10 Factors Shaping Rural America (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.
  • Defining Modern Rural America and How It Shapes Nation’s Future (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.”
  • Why Rural America Matters (KALB, Op-Ed, Kristen Oaks-White, 11/18/16) – The author offers various reasons that rural America should matter to everyone: rural and metro citizens alike.–401986435.html
  • 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.                                                    
  • Rural and Urban America Have More in Common Than You Think (CityLab, May 22, 2018) The findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center  complicate that narrative about the difference between rural and urban—showing that while rural, urban, and suburban communities have unique problems, they have surprising, perhaps often overlooked, similarities.                                                   
  • People Who Live in Small Towns and Rural Areas [in Canada] Are Happier than Everyone Else, Researchers Say. (Wonkblog, May 17, 2018) A team of happiness researchers at the Vancouver School of Economics and McGill University recently publiched a working papaer on the geography of well-being in Canada.  They compiled 400,000 responses to a pair of national Canadian surveys, allowing them to parse out distinctions in well-being at the level of more than 1,200 communities representing the country’s entire geography.