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Rural People, Rural Places: The Hidden Costs of Hurricane Katrina

April 1, 2006

This brief shows how the characteristics of rural Gulf Coast families place them at higher risks during natural disasters and make them far less able to recover from such calamities. Although few realize it, nonmetro residents represented the majority (55%) of the population affected by Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi. They also constituted 17% of the people living in Alabama's disaster-stricken area, and about 12% of the affected population in Louisiana. These are not inconsequential numbers; they represent thousands of inhabitants living in small communities dotting the tri-state region. This Rural Realities brief draws much needed attention to nonmetro areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and outlines the key features of the rural people and places that have been impacted by this major disaster. Most important, it offers a series of policy recommendations that can assist in rebuilding the region's nonmetro counties and parishes. The hope is that these policy ideas can offer a meaningful set of strategies for lessening the future vulnerability of rural areas within and outside this region of the country. This brief is from Rural Realities; Volume 1, Issue 2. Rural Realities is published by the Rural Sociological Society. It is a peer-reviewed, web-based series that is published four times a year. Each issue is devoted to a single topic.

The Changing Face of Rural America

January 1, 2006

After a decade of population loss, rural America has seen its population grow again. Nearly three-fourths of the 2,303 counties classified as rural in 1993 gained population between 1990 and 2000. As of April 2000, these areas collectively boasted a population of 56.1 million -- about one in five Americans -- and 5.2 million more than in 1990. Rural areas continued to gain population after 2000, but the pace of growth slowed considerably from that of the 1990s. Population growth, however, is only one of many changes affecting rural areas. Rural America today has moved from predominantly agrarian to postagrarian -- fewer than one in ten rural families earns its livelihood from the land -- and various economic, technological, and social changes have fundamentally altered rural life. This brief, based on Kenneth Johnson's chapter in "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century", explores these changes and their effects on rural America. 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.

Improving Rural Educational Attainment

January 1, 2006

More often than not, policymakers focus on school-based strategies to spur improvements in the educational progress of students. The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which demands greater school accountability for student performance, is a case in point. Yet, what happens in the classroom is only part of the story. In fact, as Lionel J. Beaulieu, Glenn D. Israel and Ronald C. Wimberley show in their chapter in "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century", family characteristics have from 5 to 10 times as much impact as school characteristics on reading and math scores of rural U.S. eighth graders. In addition, community characteristics have as much impact as school characteristics on test scores, although both community and chool characteristics tend to be more important in geographically isolated rural areas than those adjacent to metropolitan areas. Clearly, helping rural youth succeed academically is the collective responsibility of families, schools, and communities. 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.

Tourism and Amenity-Based Development in Rural Communities

January 1, 2006

The natural amenities that often characterize the rural landscape, whether lakes and mountains or ruggedness and small-town charm, can offer struggling communities an option for economic development and can inject population and money into an area. Indeed, rural areas with natural amenities are some of the turnaround stories of the 1990s. The population in the retirement destinations in the Sunbelt, the coast, and portions of the West and Upper Great Lakes grew by 28% between 1990 and 2000, virtually all of that growth from migration. Non-metro recreational counties also saw sizable growth, especially where much of the land is federally owned. In contrast, counties dependent on farming and mining were the least likely to gain population in the 1990s. Yet, as Richard Krannich and Peggy Petrzelka caution in their chapter in "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century", relying solely on amenity and tourism-based growth can create its own vulnerabilities and risks. Without strong community engagement and a participatory approach that includes all voices from the outset of the planning process, rural communities can risk losing their sense of culture and community. In addition, simply replacing one dominant industry for another, rather than working to diversify the economic base, leaves the community similarly exposed to potential instability. 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.

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.

Competition, Cooperation, and Local Government

January 1, 2006

Inspired by the best-selling "Reinventing Government", governments at all levels have decentralized programs and services and introduced market-based competition into operations. The goal of decentralization and privatization is to enhance civic participation and harness the market efficiencies that competition can offer. Decentralization and competition have certainly led to efficiencies and innovation. However, as Mildred Warner argues in her chapter in "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century", many rural communities with limited resources have been overwhelmed by this new focus on market competition and decentralization. These two forces have reduced small local governments' ability to produce and deliver services, administer municipal functions, and plan and execute strategies for further development. The pressures risk exacerbating inequality between rural and urban areas as rural governments with limited means fall even farther behind wealthier communities that can compete more successfully for development, tax base, and contracts with private-sector service providers. 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.

Catalytic Community Development

January 1, 2006

Community development and economic development in rural areas increasingly go hand in hand. Today, counterpoint to purely free market approaches to economic development -- in which large multinationals are the primary engines of change -- calls for more local decision-making and more locally based economic ventures. At the center of this new approach is strong community commitment to provide resources and information, overcome collective action problems, and improve the functioning of local labor markets. Enhancing community agency, or the capacity for collective action, therefore plays a significant role in effective community and economic development. Communities must focus on development both in communities (job creation, infrastructure improvement) and of communities (enhancing local problem-solving capacities). Kenneth Pigg and Ted Bradshaw, in their chapter in "Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century", outline a new model of community development, assembled from a collection of approaches. In this new "catalytic development" model, the emphasis is on mobilizing local talent and leveraging local resources and networks to find local solutions, and ultimately foster development in and of communities. 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.