Challenges

Rural America is in trouble. Current attention is on specific issues, such as opioid use; however, there are many other symptoms of systematic and government failures spanning decades and different politial regimes. The documents listed below are recent and/or seminal. They are presented to illustrate rural challenges by service segment, rather than by geography.  In the future, more California-focused articles will be added.

  • Education
    • A Monograph: Early Childhood Education in Rural Communities: Access and Quality Issues (Unicef, Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute, Williams, D.T., & Mann, T.L. (Eds., (2011) – This monograph underscores [the author’s] interest in working across the education pipeline to ensure that greater numbers of underrepresented minorities have access to educational opportunities that increase the odds of later success, academically and other-wise. http://www.ruraledu.org/user_uploads/file/EarlyChildhood.pdf

  • Economics/Resilience/Sustainability 

    • Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture (James M. MacDonald, Robert A. Hoppe, and Doris Newton. Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture, EIB-189, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, March 2018.) – This report uses detailed farm-level data from two major USDA data sources to develop more informative measures of consolidation in U.S. agriculture since the 1980s. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/88057/eib-189.pdf?
      • Findings:  
      • 51% of value of U.S. Ag production came from farms with >$1mill in sales compared to 31 in 1991.
      • By 2012, 36% of all cropland was on farms with at least 2,000 acres of cropland, up 15% from 1987.
      • Median cropland acreage was 650 acres in 1987 and was 1,201 in 2012.
      • Despite consolidation, most production continues to come from family farms, which account for 90% of farms with at least $1mill in sales (2015)
  • Environment

  • Financial

    • Banks

      • As Rural Population Dwindles, So Do Small-Town Banks(DesMoines Register, 4/15/16) – The shuttering of a bank means residents have to travel elsewhere. It also results in the loss of a business, potentially a vital one, for small towns. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2016/04/15/rural-population-dwindles-so-do-small-town-banks/82621370/
      • Goodbye, George Bailey: Decline of Rural Lending Crimps Small-Town Business (Wall Street Journal, 12/25/17) – Banks are closing branches and paring credit in rural America, focusing instead on booming urban markets; it’s ‘like a death sentence’ https://www.wsj.com/articles/goodbye-george-bailey-decline-of-rural-lending-crimps-small-town-business-1514219515
      • Research Memo: Bank Branch Closures from 2008-2016: Unequal Impact in America’s Heartland (NCRC, 8/8/17) – “The decrease in bank branch locations in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and Great Recession has diminished access to financial services for people in both rural and urban areas. Loss of access to financial services has disproportionately increased the relilane on expensive alternative financial services by low-income working families and minorities. Additionally, the loss of bran banking accewss impedes small business lending, hampering capital availability to the primary engine of U.S. Economic growth. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318989672_Bank_Branch_Closures_from_2008-2016_Unequal_Impact_in_America%27s_Heartland
        • Findings:
          • 6,008 of 95,018 branches were lost between 2008-2016. 18% were in rural areas.
          • 86 new “banking deserts” were created in rural areas.
          • “Banking deserts” disproportionately impacted minorities, with 25% of the rural closures in majority-minority census tracts.
      • The Destructive Impact of Regulatory Burden on Rural Communities (ICBA, statement for the record, 6/9/18) – “…half of new business in the current recovery have been located in just 20 U.S. counties. Rural counties have seen more businesses disappear than created. Similarly, in the current recovery, rural counties account for just 1 in 10 newly created jobs. Access to bank credit – predominantly provided by community banks — is critical to reversing this trend and revitalizing rural America…Collectively, community banks provide nearly 50 percent of all small business loans in the country and 77 percent of all agricultural loans. http://www.icba.org/docs/default-source/icba/advocacy-documents/testimony/114th-congress/test060916.pdf?sfvrsn=2
      • The Closing of American Bank Branches (The Economist, 7/27/17) – “Since the financial crisis, banks have closed over 10,000 branches, an average of three a day. In the first half of 2017 alone, a net 869 brick-and-mortar entities shut their doors…creating fears of ‘banking deserts’. Community organisations worry that if branches continue to close in poor areas, many neighbourhoods could become reliant on payday lenders and cheque-cashing stores.” https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21725596-banks-have-shuttered-over-10000-financial-crisis-closing-american

    • Grants and Government Programs

      • Participants Tout Benefits of USDA Grant, Loan Program Trump’s Looking to Nix (Wisconsin NPR, 2/19/18) – “…rural businesses…may no longer be able to access low-interest loans because [the 2018 draft budget] has proposed eliminating the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program. The program issues loans and grants that are intended to spur job creation and economic development in rural areas.” https://www.wpr.org/participants-tout-benefits-usda-grant-loan-programs-trumps-looking-nix
    • Goverment or Alternative Programs

      • Dollar Store Stocks Drop After Presdient Trump’s Budget Proposes Slashing Food Stamp Payouts (Fortune, 2/2/8) – Food stamps account for roughly 5 percent of sales of Dollar Tree and Dollar General Corp Stores. http://fortune.com/2018/02/12/dollar-store-stocks/
      • Food Stamps Cuts Could Hit Rural America Hardest (Union for Concerned Scientists, 4/14/18) – “…About sixteen percent of households in small towns and rural areas are using SNAP, compared to only thirteen percent of households in urban areas… 50 counties with the highest household SNAP usage, all but two of them are rural [and]150 counties with the highest household SNAP usage, we found that a full 136 are rural.” https://blog.ucsusa.org/sarah-reinhardt/food-stamps-cuts-could-hit-rural-america-hardest
    • Grocery Stores

      • Rural Grocery Stores: Importance and Challenges (Center for Rural Affairs, October, 2010) – This brief examines trends regarding rural grocery stores, reasons why rural communities are losing grocery stores, and some of the personal and community implications when a community lacks a grocery store. Finally, we examine some of the issues and challenges facing rural grocery stores. http://files.cfra.org/pdf/rural-grocery-stores.pdf
      • Groceries for Rural America (Facing Hunger in America 5/20/12) – “Small rural grocery stores have a very difficult time surviving, and when there is no grocery store in a small community, the whole area loses some of its vitality [and] the loss of a town’s local grocery store also means a loss of business for other small stores (people traveling for groceries will tend to shop for other items while they’re there), a decrease in property values, and a decrease in the health and well-being of town residents.   Grocery stores are an anchor for a community’s sustainability. http://facinghungerinamerica.blogspot.com/2012/05/groceries-for-rural-america.html
      • Small-town Grocery Stores Fioght to Stay Open (Capital Press Marketplace, 8/10/17) – “As the groceries close, their towns hear a final death knell, or at least the signal that things are only going down in the lonely years ahead. The disappearance of the grocery store — more than an inconvenience to the elderly, the poor and those who don’t drive — speeds the plummet of home values and any other lingering retail activity.” http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20170810/small-town-grocery-stores-fight-to-stay-open
      • How Dollar General Is Transforming Rural America (NPR, 12/11/17)   – The retail economy in rural America has been rough for decades. But where thousands of stores have closed in recent years, Dollar General is thriving, sometimes at the expense of local shops. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/11/569815331/loving-and-hating-dollar-general-in-rural-america
  • Health

    • Health Care
      • The Role of Medicaid in Rural America (The henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/25/17) – This brief describes Medicaid’s role for 52 million nonelderly children and adults living in the most rural areas in the United States and discusses how expansions or reductions in Medicaid could affect rural areas.https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/the-role-of-medicaid-in-rural-america/
        • In Rural Areas:
        • Individuals are less likely to be employed and more likely to be low-income than individuals living in other areas.
        • Individuals face significant barriers to accessing care, including provider shortages, recent closures of rural hospitals, and long travel distances to providers.
        • Nonelderly individuals in rural areas are less likely to have private coverage compared to those in urban and other areas (61% vs. 64% and 66%, respectively).
        • Medicaid coverage rates may higher in rural areas than in urban or other areas of the state.
      • Reinventing Rural Health Care, A Case Study of Seven Upper Mikdwest States (Bipartisan Policy Center, January, 2018) – Rural health issues affect more than just the Upper Midwest region and the seven states included in this effort. Furthermore, these issues do not exist in isolation – they are interdependent and build off each other. The nation cannot just x one part of rural health care; the whole system needs to be addressed.https://bipartisanpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/BPC-Health-Reinventing-Rural-Health-Care-1.pdf
    • Health Services 
    • Hospitals 
      • A Hospital Crisis is Killing Rural Communities. This State is Ground Zero  – Inside three Georgia counties that have struggled to keep their hospitals – and futures – alive. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rural-hospitals-closure-georgia_us_59c02bf4e4b087fdf5075e38
      • America’s Rural Hospitals Are Dangerously Fragile (The Atlantic, 1/9/18) – Consolidation in the health-care industry is threatening small and independent hospitals and the communities they’re in. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/rural-hospitals/549050/
      • Rethinking Rural Health Solutions to Save patients and Communities (NPR, 2/28/18) Many Rural Hospitals Must Adapt or Close. “Rural America is a little bit older, a little bit sicker, a little bit poorer”, says Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical advisor with the Bipartisan Policy Center.  Further, “The National Rural Health Association says 673 rural hospitals are at risk to close, and 210 of those are at “extreme risk”— 60 rural hospitals closed between 2010 and February 2016.” https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/28/588826085/rethinking-rural-health-solutions-to-save-patients-and-communities
      • Rural Hospital Shutdowns Force communities to take Care of Their Own (CNBC, 3/24/18) – There has been a total of 83 rural hospital closures from January 2010 to January 2018 across the United States, according to North Carolina Rural Health Researcchr, which tracks rural hospital closures. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/23/rural-hospital-closures-force-towns-to-take-action.html
    • Pharmacies
      • Issues Confronting Rural Pharmacies (RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy, April. 2017) – “The RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis has been monitoring the status of rural independent pharmacies since the implementation of Medicare Part D in 2005. After a decade of Part D, we reassess in this brief the issues that concern rural pharmacies and may ultimately challenge their provision of services. This reassessment is based on survey responses from rural pharmacists.” https://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/rupri/publications/policybriefs/2017/Issues%20confronting%20rural%20pharmacies.pdf
      • Rural Areas Continue to Lose Pharmacy Access (Pharmacy Times, 10/6/14) – Nearly 1000 independently owned pharmacies have closed over the past decade, leaving 490 rural areas without access to retail pharmacy services, recent research has revealed. http://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/rural-areas-continue-to-lose-pharmacy-access
  • Libraries

    • Library Closures and Defunding Concerns in 2017 (EveryLibrary 1/27/18) –  Library Closures and Defunding Concerns in 2017 http://everylibrary.org/library-closures-defunding-2017/
    • Losing a Library: A Community That Gives Up its Library, Gives Up On Itself (Library Journal 2/3/17) – “This is not business as usual, and the complete elimination of a library is a loss not only to the community it serves but to the network of libraries as well.” https://lj.libraryjournal.com/2017/02/opinion/editorial/losing-a-library-a-community-that-gives-up-its-library-gives-up-on-itself-editorial/
    • The State of Small and Rural Libraries (The Institute of Museum and Library Services, Research Brief No. 5, September, 2013) https://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/Brief2013_05.pdf
      • Findings:
        • Small and rural libraries are 80.5% of all library systems in the U.S.
        • Although most rural libraries are small, only ~50% of small libraries are rural.
        • The percent of rural public libraries varies by state: 3.6% to 83.3%.
        • These libraries provide substantial electronic and digital resources.
        • Although per capital revenue has decreased over the past 3 years, use has increased for both small and rural libraries.
    • Rural Libraries in the United States, Recent Strides, Future Possibilities and Meeting Community Needs. (ALA, July, 2017) – Rural America… has the lowest home broadband Internet adoption rates, the lowest employment and economic growth rates, the fewest physicians per capita, and the lowest educational attainment rates. Rural libraries are part of the solution to addressing these concerns—often providing the only free public computer and Internet access and assisting patrons in gaining technology skills to pursue employment, entrepreneurship, and education opportunities online. In short, libraries are invaluable resources in some of our smallest and most far-flung communities…Of all rural libraries, 940 are designated as rural fringe (within 5 miles of an urban area), 3,203 are rural distant (5-25 miles from an urban area), and 2,265 are rural remote (>25 miles from an urban area).” http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/pdfs/Rural%20paper%2007-31-2017.pdf
  • Susbstance Abuse