This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface



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Rural Poverty


Although many US cities have high poverty rates, the poverty rate is actually somewhat higher overall in rural areas than in urban areas. In 2010, 16.5 percent of rural residents were classified as officially poor, compared to 14.9 percent of urban residents. However, the poverty rate in the nation’s largest cities was higher yet at 19.7 percent. The number of poor rural residents was almost 8 million, while the number of poor urban residents (reflecting the fact that most Americans live in urban areas) was almost 36 million (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2011). [7]

Rural poverty is thought to be more persistent than urban poverty because of the factors that contribute to its high rate. These factors include the out-migration of young, highly skilled workers; the lack of industrial jobs that typically have been higher paying than agricultural jobs; and limited opportunities for the high-paying jobs of the information age. Biotech companies, electronics companies, and other symbols of the information age are hardly ever found in the nation’s rural areas. Instead, they locate themselves in or near urban areas, in which are found the universities, masses of people, and other necessary aspects these companies need to succeed.

Compounding the general problem of poverty, rural areas are also more likely than nonrural areas to lack human services programs to help the poor, disabled, elderly, and other people in need of aid (National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services, 2011). [8] Because rural towns are so small, they often cannot afford services such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and Meals on Wheels, and thus must rely on services located in other towns. Yet rural towns are often far from each other, making it difficult and expensive for rural residents to obtain the services they need. For example, a Meals on Wheels program in an urban area may travel just a few miles and serve dozens of people, while it may have to travel more than one hundred miles in a rural area and serve only a few people. Adding to this problem is the strong sense in many rural areas that individuals should be strong enough to fend for themselves and not accept government help. Even when services are available, some people who need them decline to take advantage of them because of pride and shame.

Domestic Violence


One of the sad facts of rural life is domestic violence. This form of violence is certainly common in urban areas, but the defining feature of rural areas—a relatively low number of people living in a relatively broad area—creates several problems for victims of domestic violence, most of them women (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 2009). [9]

For example, these women often find it difficult to get help and/or to leave their abusers wherever they live. However, it is often even more difficult for rural women to do so. Rural police may be unenlightened about domestic violence and may even know the abuser; for either reason, they may not consider his violence a crime, and abused women may be that much more reluctant to tell the police about their abuse.

Another problem concerns the availability of battered women’s shelters, which provide invaluable services for abused women and any children they might have. These shelters tend to be found in cities, which still do not have nearly enough shelters. Rural areas generally lack shelters, and any shelters that exist are often long distances from the homes of abused women. In rural areas, abused women are also more likely than their urban counterparts to lack neighbors and friends to whom they can turn for support, or at least to live farther from these individuals. For all these reasons, rural women who experience domestic violence face a problem that has been called “dangerous exits” (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 2009). [10]

KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Like cities, rural areas also have their advantages and disadvantages. They can be beautiful, relaxing places in which to live, but they also lack many of the cultural advantages and other amenities that cities feature.

  • Rural areas are characterized by sparse populations and long distances that people must travel. These conditions make it difficult to provide adequate public transportation and various kinds of human services. The poverty of many rural areas aggravates these problems.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. If you had your choice, would you want to live in a large city, medium-sized city, small town, or rural area? Explain your answer.

  2. Americans often seem to blame city residents for many of the problems affecting US cities today, including low academic achievement, rundown conditions in city schools, and crime in the streets. Do you think it is fair to blame city residents for these problems, or are there other reasons for them? Explain your answer.

[1] Johnson, A. O., Mink, M. D., Harun, N., Moore, C. G., Martin, A. B., & Bennett, K. J. (2008). Violence and drug use in rural teens: National prevalence estimates from the 2003 youth risk behavior survey. Journal of School Health, 78(10), 554–561.

[2] Brown, D. M. (2008). Public transportation on the move in rural America. Washington, DC: Economic Research Service.

[3] Whitacre, B. E. (2010). The diffusion of Internet technologies to rural communities: A portrait of broadband supply and demand. American Behavioral Scientist, 53, 1283–1303.

[4] National Rural Health Association. (2012). What’s different about rural health care? Retrieved from http://www.ruralhealthweb.org/go/left/about-rural-health.

[5] Bennett, K. J., Olatosi, B., & Probst, J. C. (2009). Health disparities: A rural-urban chartbook. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Rural Health Research Center.

[6] Center for Rural Policy and Development. (2009). A region apart: A look at challenges and strategies for rural K–12 schools. Saint Peter, MN: Center for Rural Policy and Development.

[7] DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., & Smith, J. C. (2011). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2010 (Current Population Reports, P60–239). Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.

[8] National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services. (2011). The 2011 report to the secretary: Rural health and human services issues. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.

[9] DeKeseredy, W. S., & Schwartz, M. D. (2009). Dangerous exits: Escaping abusive relationships in rural America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

[10] DeKeseredy, W. S., & Schwartz, M. D. (2009). Dangerous exits: Escaping abusive relationships in rural America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


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