Rural Community Challenges


DRAFT – UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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 political 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. Editors, Williams, D.T., and Mann, T.L. 2011) – This monograph underscores 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 otherwise. http://www.ruraledu.org/user_uploads/file/EarlyChildhood.pdf


  • Economics/Resilience/Sustainability 

    • Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture (MacDonald, James M., Hoppe, Robert A., and Newton, Doris. 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.  Findings:  
      • 51% of the 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)

https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/88057/eib-189.pdf?


  • Environment


  • Financial

    • Banks

      • As Rural Population Dwindles, So Do Small-Town Banks(Patane, Matthew. Des Moines Register. April 15, 2016.) 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 (Simon, Ruth and Jones, Coulter. Wall Street Journal. December 25, 2017.) 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 (Mitchell, Bruce, Xu, Yichen, Richardson, Jason, and Franco, Juan. NCRC. August 8, 2017.) “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 reliance on expensive alternative financial services by low-income working families and minorities. Additionally, the loss of bran banking access impedes small business lending, hampering capital availability to the primary engine of U.S. Economic growth.
        • 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.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318989672_Bank_Branch_Closures_from_2008-2016_Unequal_Impact_in_America%27s_Heartland

      • The Destructive Impact of Regulatory Burden on Rural Communities, A Statement for the Record. (Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA), June 9, 2018.) “…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, July 27, 2017.) “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 organizations worry that if branches continue to close in poor areas, many neighborhoods could become reliant on payday lenders and cheque-cashing stores.”  (Note: you may need a subscription to read this article) https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21725596-banks-have-shuttered-over-10000-financial-crisis-closing-american
      • Will Trump Crash the Farm Economy? (Leonard, Robert. The New York Times, April 1, 2018). “[In Iowa] a couple of banker friends … told [the article’s author] last week that with commodity prices down and the tariffs imposed, approximately 10 percent of our farmers probably won’t make it this year, and 10 percent more will likely fail next year … [And] larger agribusinesses are buying up smaller farms that are in financial trouble … people are starting to make comparisons [between current economic trends and] the farm crisis of the 1980s when approximately 10,000 Iowa farmers lost their farms.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/01/opinion/trump-tariffs-agriculture-economy.html
    • Grants and Government Programs

      • Participants Tout Benefits of USDA Grant, Loan Program Trump’s Looking to Nix (Kaeding, Danielle. Wisconsin NPR. February 19, 2018.) “…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

  • Government or Alternative Programs

    • Dollar Store Stocks Drop After President Trump’s Budget Proposes Slashing Food Stamp Payouts (Fortune, February 2, 2018.) 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 (Reinhardt, Sarah. Union for Concerned Scientists. April 14, 2018.) “…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 Fight 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

  • Gender
    • Gender Wage Gap among Rural Workers (Robbins, Gallagher, Frye, Jocelyn and McGrew Annie. Center for American Prograss, Economy. April 10, 2018). While all rural workers earn lower wages than their nonrural counterparts, new analysis by the Center for American Progress reveals that women of color are among the lowest paid workers in rural areas with rural black and Hispanic women who work full time, year-round making just 56 cents for every dollar that rural white, non-Hispanic men make. Native American and Asian American and Pacific Islander women earn slightly more, making 69 cents and 75 cents, respectively, though these figures can mask wide variation within these communities. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2018/04/10/449284/gender-wage-gap-among-rural-workers/



  • 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 Midwest 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 


  • 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 capita 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

  • Substance Abuse

  • Trends
    • 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).                                                               https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-divide-between-americas-prosperous-cities-and-struggling-small-townsin-20-charts-1514543401