CDS Community Development Strategies
In 1900, the U.S. urban population was just over 30 million while the rural population was just shy of 46 million. The split was 39.6% urban and 60.4% rural. By 2010, the urban share increased to 80.7% while the rural share shrank to 19.3%. For some states, like Texas, this reverse was even more drastic, going from 82.9% rural to 15.3% over the same time.
The lack of population growth across rural and small town America presents some interesting and unique challenges. Although some small places have bustling economies and plenty of activity, these areas often get painted with a broad brush. It can be challenging to attract new private investment to these areas--which is at the heart of many issues.
- Urbanization Makes Life in Rural America Risky: "Risk is inevitable wherever you go. Adverse urban environments — characterized by economic disadvantage, crime, and segregation — are associated with chronic psychological and physiological stress... But people in rural areas remain worse off than urbanites when it comes to their health. The issue, research shows, isn’t that people in the country get sick more often than people in the city. The issue is what happens when people get sick."
- Rural America's Silent Housing Crisis: "It can be hard to understand how finding affordable housing could be an issue in areas where housing is substantially cheaper than it would be in the nearest city or suburb. But the fact of the matter is, despite lower costs of living, income for many in rural areas is also significantly lower thanks to limited economic opportunities and struggling industries, like coal."
- Rural and Urban America Divided by Broadband Access: "[The] discrepancy in [high speed internet] access inhibits rural communities in often unforeseen ways... rural schools lack access to high-speed fiber and pay more than twice as much for bandwidth. In a growing world of personalized online curricula, internet-based research, and online testing, this severely restricts rural students from educational opportunities their urban counterparts may enjoy.
- Rural America Confronts a New Class Divide: "The widening gulf between the haves and have nots is not limited to the Rust Belt’s cast-off manufacturing workers, working class suburbanites, or inner-city poor working on a stagnant minimum wage. The same trends have taken hold in farm country, though in different forms. The farms that once generated wealth for entire communities are now creating a new class of superfarmers."
About the author: Kirby Snideman is an AICP certified planning professional with a focus in economic development and currently serves as a senior market analyst and project manager at CDS. Originally from Houston, Mr. Snideman has lived, studied, and worked in several places including Utah, New York, California, Iowa, Illinois, Oregon, and London, England.