ERS Charts of Note

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Employment in rural inpatient healthcare facilities was relatively more concentrated in the Upper Midwest and Northern Great Plains

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rural inpatient healthcare facilities—such as general hospitals, nursing care facilities, and residential mental health facilities—can improve the health and economic well-being of local communities. At its peak in 2011, rural inpatient healthcare employment reached over 1.25 million wage and salary jobs, or about 8.5 percent of total rural (wage and salary) employment. However, employment in the rural inpatient healthcare sector varies by region. Between 2001 and 2015, rural counties with the most inpatient healthcare facility jobs per resident were concentrated in the Upper Midwest and Northern Great Plains. Regions with fewer inpatient healthcare jobs per resident include much of the West, the Southern Great Plains, and the South. The regional variation in rural healthcare employment per resident may reflect in part the relatively heavier dependence of some sparsely populated areas on hospital employment, and the difficulty many rural communities face in attracting and retaining physicians and other healthcare professionals. One study found, for example, that over 85 percent of rural counties had a shortage of primary care health professionals in 2005. Additionally, between January 2010 and December 2016, 78 rural hospitals closed—about 4 percent of the 1,855 total rural hospitals. This chart appears in the ERS report, Employment Spillover Effects of Rural Inpatient Healthcare Facilities, released November 2017.

Inpatient healthcare facilities had modest employment gains in rural areas, despite the effects of the Great Recession

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Rural inpatient healthcare facilities—such as general hospitals, nursing care facilities, and residential mental health facilities—can improve the health of local communities and provide jobs. From 2001 to 2015, inpatient healthcare facilities experienced modest employment gains in rural counties, despite the effects of the Great Recession. At its peak in 2011, inpatient healthcare employment represented over 1.25 million wage and salary jobs in rural areas. The growth of inpatient healthcare jobs in rural areas often exceeded the growth in several sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. Between 2007 and 2010, rural inpatient healthcare jobs rose by 26,000. Rural inpatient healthcare facilities accounted for 7.6 percent of wage and salary employment in 2001, rising to 8.1 percent by 2015. This chart appears in the ERS report Employment Spillover Effects of Rural Inpatient Healthcare Facilities, released December 2017.

Younger adults generally have higher educational attainment than older ones

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Americans are increasingly educated, but gains in educational attainment vary between urban and rural areas and across demographic groups such as age. In 2015, younger working-age adults generally had higher educational attainment. For example, 36 percent of urban adults ages 25 to 34 had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32 percent of those ages 45 to 64. Rural adults, on the other hand, had a bachelor’s degree or higher at roughly the same share (19 to 20 percent) across all age groups. Older age groups in both rural and urban areas generally had a higher share of adults with a high school diploma or less (the bottom two bar segments). About half of the rural adults ages 45 to 64 had a high school diploma or less, compared to 39 percent of their urban peers. This chart appears in the April 2017 ERS report Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition.

Low education rural counties have worse economic outcomes on average than other rural counties

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rural (nonmetro) counties with the lowest levels of educational attainment face worse economic outcomes on average than other rural counties. ERS classifies 467 counties as “low education” counties—those where at least 20 percent of working-age adults (ages 25 to 64) do not have a high school diploma or equivalent; nearly 80 percent of these counties are rural. About 40 percent of low education rural counties are also persistent poverty counties, with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher since 1980. Between 2011 and 2015, low education rural counties had an average poverty rate of 24 percent, compared to 16 percent for all other rural counties. Low education rural counties also had a higher average child poverty rate on average (34 percent) than for all other rural counties (23 percent). In addition, the unemployment rate of low education rural counties was about a percentage point higher. This chart appears in the April 2017 ERS report Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition.

Urban areas offer higher earnings for workers with more education

Friday, July 7, 2017

The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey show that workers with higher levels of education had higher median earnings, both in rural and urban areas. Urban workers without a high school diploma earned about the same as their rural counterparts. However, at every higher level of educational attainment, the typical urban worker earned increasingly more than the typical rural worker with the same education. For example, the 2015 premium for working in an urban area was an estimated $2,088 a year for workers with a high school diploma—and $10,534 for those with a bachelor’s degree. Some studies suggest that higher urban earnings may encourage workers to leave rural areas, but factors like family ties and proximity to natural amenities (such as forest and lakes) may help keep or attract workers to rural areas. Educational attainment is only one of many potential characteristics that determine the wages that workers earn. Other characteristics not shown in the chart—such as work experience, job tenure, and ability—may also contribute to earnings. This chart appears in the July 2017 Amber Waves finding, "Urban Areas Offer Higher Earnings for Workers With More Education."

Rural unemployment rates declined for all education levels from 2010 to 2015

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Unemployment rates for rural adults are lower for those with higher educational attainment. But during the Great Recession (shaded area of the chart), unemployment rates across all education levels roughly doubled between 2007 and 2010. Rural working-age adults (ages 25-64) without a high school diploma saw their unemployment rates climb the most, compared to those with higher educational attainment. For example, the difference in unemployment rates between rural working-age adults without a high school diploma and those with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from about 6 percentage points in 2007 to 11 percentage points in 2011. As the rural economy recovered, both rural and urban unemployment rates fell and trended toward pre-recession levels. For example, after peaking at about 15 percent in 2010, the unemployment rate of rural adults without a high school diploma dropped under 10 percent by 2015. The overall unemployment rate in 2015 was 5.7 percent in rural areas, compared to 5.2 percent in urban areas. This chart appears in the April 2017 ERS report Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition.

Rural education levels are improving, but still lag urban areas

Friday, April 7, 2017

Compared with rural (nonmetro) areas, urban (metro) areas have historically had a higher share of adults with bachelor’s, postgraduate, and professional degrees. Between 2000 and 2015, the share of urban adults with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 26 to 33 percent, while in rural areas the share grew from 15 to 19 percent. This gap may be due to the higher pay offered in urban areas to workers with college degrees. Rural areas have improved in terms of high school completion: The share of rural adults with less than a high school diploma dropped to 15 percent in 2015, close to the share for urban adults (13 percent). The share of adults with an associate’s degree (and some college, no degree) was also similar in rural and urban areas. This chart appears in the April 2017 ERS report Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition.

Educational attainment rates remain lower for rural minorities

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Higher educational attainment is closely tied to economic well-being—through higher earnings, lower unemployment, and lower poverty. While educational attainment in rural America has improved over time, rural areas still lag urban areas in educational attainment. Moreover, within rural areas, educational attainment varies across racial and ethnic categories. In general, minority populations within rural areas have relatively less education. About a quarter of adults age 25 and over in the rural Black population, 20 percent of Native Americans/Alaska Natives, and almost 40 percent of rural Hispanics had not completed high school or the equivalent in 2015. These shares are considerably higher than for rural Whites, with 13 percent lacking a high school diploma. Lower attainment levels for minorities may both reflect and contribute to high rates of poverty. Childhood poverty is highly correlated with lower academic success and graduation rates, while lower educational attainment is strongly associated with lower earnings in adulthood. This chart updates data found in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2015 Edition, published November 2015.

Unemployment rate for rural veterans at its lowest since before the Great Recession

Monday, November 7, 2016

The unemployment rate for rural veterans has declined steadily since reaching its peak of 10.3 percent in 2010. In 2015, it stood at 5.0 percent, its lowest rate since the start of the 2007-09 recession. The unemployment rate for young rural veterans (ages 18 to 34) has seen a large decline too—from a high of 15.7 percent in 2009 to 7.9 percent in 2015. Young veterans often face high unemployment due to service-related disabilities and a lack of civilian work experience, which is a greater obstacle when the economy is weak. The recent drop in unemployment for all veterans partly stems from the post-recession national economic upturn. Public and private efforts that help veterans transition into the workplace quicker and into better paying jobs that fit with their skills have also reduced the time that veterans remain unemployed. These efforts include greater recognition of the skills veterans learn during their service—such as discipline and timeliness—and the value of those skills in the workplace. This chart provides an update to the ERS report, Rural Veterans at a Glance.

Rural educational attainment has been rising

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Historically, rural (nonmetro) areas in the United States have lagged metro areas in educational attainment, but nonmetro areas are catching up over time. In the decade following the 2000 Census, the percentage of the rural population with less than a high school education dropped significantly, and is now only slightly higher than in urban areas. Meanwhile, high school completion, college attendance, and college completion rates in nonmetro areas all rose during the 2000s. However, nonmetro areas still face a large gap compared with metro areas in the share of adults with a bachelor?s degree or higher?17.4 percent versus 30.2 percent in 2007-11. At least part of this gap reflects the higher pay that highly educated workers often can earn in metropolitan labor markets. This chart updates one found in the Rural Employment and Education topic page.

Minorities represent a lower share of rural veterans than of the rural population

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Between 1992 and 2011, the share of rural veterans representing racial-ethnic minorities increased from 6 to 10 percent. Despite this increase, rural minorities remain under-represented relative to their 18.4-percent share of the adult rural population. For example, while Hispanic men and women accounted for 7 percent of the rural population in 2011, they represented only about 2 percent of rural veterans that year. Rapid population growth in the 1980s and 1990s among rural Hispanics was led by young-adult job seekers, mostly foreign-born?these newcomers were typically less inclined to volunteer for military service and were less likely to meet the military?s enlistment requirements. Rural Hispanic immigrants have been aging into family formation, settling into permanent residence, and raising children who may be more inclined to consider and qualify for military service. African Americans and Native Americans also account for a lower share of rural veterans relative to their share of the rural population, although the gap is less pronounced. This chart is found in the ERS report, Rural Veterans At A Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

On average, rural veterans are older than nonveterans

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Nearly 4 million veterans reside in rural America (defined here as residents of nonmetropolitan counties). Rural veterans are an aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise nearly 11 percent of the rural adult population, although their numbers are consistently declining. The share of rural veterans differs by age, ranging from less than 3 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds up to 25 percent of those aged 65 and older. The age distribution of rural veterans tends to be older than nonveterans; nearly half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared with only 18 percent of rural nonveterans. The aging of the rural veteran population is largely due to the fact that a smaller share of the population now serves in the military than in the past. For instance, nearly 20 percent of American men served in the military during World War II, compared to less than 1 percent today. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Gains in educational attainment of rural workforce continue

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The most recent American Community Survey shows that the percentage of the working-age (adults between the ages of 25 and 64) rural population with schooling beyond a high school diploma increased from 44.5 percent in 2000 to 50.6 percent in 2008-12. As elsewhere, rural people have an economic incentive to acquire additional skills and higher educational attainment; doing so improves both their employment prospects and earnings potential. Even though urban places often offer higher wages than rural places for the college educated, good schools coupled with easy access to outdoor amenities and the potential for a higher quality of life can be an effective draw for rural in-migrants. Increasing school quality and educational attainment is often viewed as part of a broader economic development strategy for rural communities, particularly when paired with job creation strategies such as entrepreneurship and small business development. This chart is based on the ERS data product, County Level Data Sets, updated July 2014.

Nonmetro creative class counties found in nearly every State

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The creative class thesis?that towns need to attract engineers, architects, artists, and people in other creative occupations to compete in today's economy?may be particularly relevant to rural communities, which tend to lose much of their talent when young adults leave to attend college, pursue employment opportunities in urban areas, or join the armed forces. The ERS creative class codes indicate a county's share of population employed in occupations that require "thinking creatively." In 2007-11, 217 nonmetro counties ranked in the top 25 percent in the share of employment in creative class occupations. While rural counties generally lost employment and population in 2012-13, rural creative class counties gained, although at half the pace of urban creative class counties. Clusters of rural creative class counties are found in areas of natural beauty, such as the Rocky Mountains and northern New England, which are attractive places to live.? Adjacency to metropolitan areas and the presence of university or college towns are also associated with many rural creative class counties across the U.S. This map and the related underlying data are found in the ERS data product, Creative Class County Codes, updated May 2014.

Recent employment growth in U.S. nonmetro areas remains flat

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in both rural and urban areas during the Great Recession of 2007-09. In 2010, the first year of the economic recovery, metro and nonmetro employment levels grew at comparable rates. Since the start of 2011, however, net job growth in nonmetro areas has been near zero while employment in metro counties has grown at an annual rate of 1.4 percent. The stagnation in nonmetro job growth overlaps with the first recorded period of nonmetro population loss, between 2010 and 2012, which was driven by a decrease in net migration to rural areas. This lack of population growth, combined with a falling labor force participation rate, has permitted the nonmetro unemployment rate to fall slowly but steadily despite the lack of employment growth. This chart is found in Rural America at a Glance, 2013 Edition, released November 2013.

Rural veterans more likely to graduate from high school and obtain college degrees

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The current military recruitment standard requiring a high school diploma or equivalent (in most cases) explains the much lower percentage of high school dropouts among rural veterans?9.5 percent compared with nearly 15 percent among all rural adults. In addition, about 53 percent of veterans living in rural counties in 2011 had completed at least some formal education beyond high school, including 21 percent who earned a bachelor?s degree or higher (compared with 19 percent for all rural adults). Higher educational attainment may help explain some of the economic advantage enjoyed by rural veterans?in 2011, 6 percent of rural veterans were living at or below the poverty line, compared to 15 percent of all rural adults. This chart is found in the ERS report, Rural Veterans At A Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Rural counties drive the 2000-11 growth in U.S. onshore production of oil and natural gas

Thursday, September 1, 2016

From 2000 to 2011, onshore gross withdrawals of natural gas in the lower 48 States increased by about 47 percent, reaching historic highs in every year after 2006. Over the same period, withdrawals of oil increased by 11 percent, with much of that growth occurring between 2007 and 2011. Rural counties (nonmetro noncore) accounted for almost all of the growth in oil production and a large share of the growth in gas production based on newly released data from ERS on County-level Oil and Gas Production in the U.S.? While just over 35 percent of counties in the lower 48 States reported some level of oil or natural gas production during 2000-11, sizeable changes in production levels were more concentrated. Interestingly, the number of counties with an increase in oil and gas production of $20 million or more over the decade (218 counties) was nearly the same as the number (212) with a decrease of $20 million or more. This map is found in the Documentation and Maps page of the data product County-level Oil and Gas Production in the U.S., and also in the Amber Waves article, "Onshore Oil and Gas Development in the Lower 48 States: Introducing a County-Level Database of Production for 2000-2011."

County unemployment rates reflect patterns established during the recession

Thursday, September 1, 2016

During the 2007-09 recession, unemployment rates rose fastest in the West, South, South Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest. States most reliant on manufacturing?including Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and North Carolina?were hit especially hard. Many of the States with the smallest increases in unemployment were located in the Great Plains and had relatively high employment shares in agriculture, which was largely unaffected by the recession. Similarly, States in the West South Central region (which includes Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas) saw their unemployment rates held in check by growth in oil and gas drilling. Since 2009, unemployment rates have fallen in all States, with large improvements in a few. In general, States that experienced the largest increases in unemployment rates during the recession have seen the largest reductions in unemployment rates during the recovery. Still, most of the hardest-hit States continue to have above-average unemployment rates. As a result, the current geography of county unemployment rates still reflects the patterns established during the recession. Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates (below 4.7 percent) are located in or near the Great Plains. The highest unemployment rate counties (above 8.7 percent) are concentrated in the West, South, and South Atlantic, as well as in Appalachia and parts of the Rust Belt. This chart is found in the October 2014 edition of Amber Waves.

The earnings advantage from higher education is more pronounced in urban areas

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Despite an upward trend in rural educational attainment levels over time, a larger proportion of working-age adults in urban areas have college degrees. This rural-urban disparity is partly the result of considerably higher earnings levels for college graduates and advanced degree holders in urban areas. Many young adults leave rural areas to attend college, and many remain in urban areas after college due to the higher earnings available to them in those areas. In contrast, differences between rural and urban earnings levels are much smaller for those with less education, who thus have less incentive to move to urban areas. However, despite the lower earnings generally available in rural areas, some individuals and families at all levels of educational attainment migrate from urban to rural areas, as quality-of-life factors, lower housing costs, personal ties, or other specific opportunities motivate them to move or move back to rural America. This chart is found in the 2014 edition of?Rural America at a Glance, EB-26, November 2014.

Rising income inequality drove most of the increase in child poverty between 2003 and 2014

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Between 2003 and 2014, the percent of children living in poverty as measured by ERS researchers increased by 3.4 percentage points in rural areas and 3.0 percentage points in urban areas. Changes in rural and urban average household income between these two dates were small, and had little effect on child poverty rates. Instead, most of the rise in child poverty was the result of an increase in income inequality, meaning that lower income families fared worse than average. In rural areas, 1.2 percentage points of increased child poverty could be attributed to changes in family characteristics and other demographic factors, including a decline in the share of children living in married-couple families, a slight decline in the number of working-age adults per family, and a slight rise in the number of children per family. The remaining increase?accounting for 1.9 percentage points in increased child poverty?reflects rising inequality within demographic categories. For urban children, family characteristics and other demographic factors had little net effect on child poverty. This chart is based on the ERS report, Understanding the Rise in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-2014, released May 16, 2016.

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