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The Challenges of Rural Poverty

January 1, 2006

In rural America today, more than one in seven residents lives in poverty. Poverty's causes are a complex interplay of individual characteristics and decisions, on the one hand, and the nature of the communities and economies in which people work and live, on the other. Leif Jensen, Diane McLaughlin, and Tim Slack, in their chapter in "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century", show how poverty emerges in rural areas and offer suggestions about what can be done to bolster the incomes and well-being of rural residents. This issue brief is a joint product of the Rural Sociological Society and the National Coalition for Rural Entrepreneurship, a collaboration of four Regional Rural Development Centers: The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, the Southern Rural Development Center, the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, and the Western Rural Development Center. Funding was also made available from the Ford Foundation. This brief is part of a policy brief series by the Rural Sociological Society and the Regional Rural Development Centers that stresses the importance of community collective action and developing the capacity of people and organizations to meet the community's needs The Rural Sociological Society and the Regional Rural Development Centers creates new Public Policy Issue Brief series based on its recent book, "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century". The briefs synthesize the context and substance of important issues raised in the book and address alternative policy options, with the goal of bringing important research to the policy community.

At the Razor's Edge: Building Hope for America's Rural Poor

January 1, 2006

Hurricane Katrina exposed the poverty that lay in our midst, and although the images served to remind the country of its enduring inequality, the picture was one of urban poverty. What the images failed to expose is the rural face of poverty, which in the South -- and especially in the Delta -- is the face of poverty. About one-third of the area hit by Katrina is rural, and the rate of poverty in the rural South stands at nearly 18%, the highest of any region in the country. What is too often overlooked is that poverty rates nationwide are consistently higher in rural than in urban areas (as a percentage of the population), and poverty is far more persistent in rural localities. On one level, the rebuilding of the Delta and other parts of the mid-South region represents an opportune time to refocus our lens on what we know about rural poverty and to outline adaptable blueprints that poor rural counties may adopt in their quest to eradicate poverty. This brief offers an important step in outlining the causes of rural poverty and delineating strategies that can move rural areas on the path of social and economic stability. This brief is from Rural Realities; Volume 1, Issue 1. Rural Realities is published by the Rural Sociological Society. It is is a peer-reviewed, web-based series that is published four times a year. Each issue is devoted to a single topic.