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Rural median household income remains about 25 percent below the urban median

Thursday, July 20, 2017

In 2015, the median household income for rural (nonmetro) counties rose to $44,212, a 3.4 percent increase over the prior year. This was the second year in a row of rising real (adjusted for inflation) income for the median rural household, ending 6 years of income declines during and after the Great Recession of 2007-09. By comparison, urban (metro) median income has risen for 3 straight years, reaching $58,260 in 2015. However, these 2015 median incomes remain below their 2007 peaks of $45,816 for rural households and $60,661 for urban ones. Generally, rural median household income has remained about 25 percent below the urban median. Because the cost of living is generally lower in rural areas, the gap in purchasing power is likely smaller between rural and urban households. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Income, updated June 2017.

Over half of farmers had health insurance coverage through an employer

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Health insurance can help people and households manage the cost and uncertainty of healthcare expenses. Most Americans with health insurance coverage receive it through their employers, and farm households are no exception. Although many farm operators are self-employed, in the majority of farm households either the operator or spouse is employed off-farm. In 2015, more than half of farm household members had health insurance coverage through an employer—close to the rate for the overall U.S. population. Farmers reported similar rates to the general population in purchasing their health insurance directly from an insurance company—and are less likely to receive health insurance from a government-provided program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Over 89 percent of farmers had some form of health insurance, similar to the general population (nearly 91 percent). This chart appears in the topic page for Health Insurance Coverage, updated December 2016.

Rural poverty remains regionally concentrated

Friday, March 3, 2017

Poverty is not evenly distributed throughout the United States. Americans living in poverty tend to be clustered in certain U.S. regions and counties. Nonmetro (rural) counties with a high incidence of poverty are mainly concentrated in the South, which had an average poverty rate of nearly 22 percent between 2011 and 2015. Rural counties with the most severe poverty are located in historically poor areas of the Southeast—including the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia—as well as on Native American lands, predominantly in the Southwest and North Central Midwest. The incidence of rural poverty is relatively low elsewhere, but generally more widespread than in the past due to a number of factors. For example, declining employment in the manufacturing sector since the 1980s contributed to the spread of poverty in the Midwest and the Northeast. Another factor is rapid growth in Hispanic populations over the 1990s and 2000s—particularly in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Georgia. This group tends to be poorer than non-Hispanic whites. Finally, the 2007-09 recession resulted in more widespread rural poverty. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated February 2017.

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.

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.

Higher disability rates reported in rural areas and the South

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Data from the 2013 American Community Survey show that the more rural an area (micropolitan counties with an urban core population of 10,000 to 49,999 and nonmetropolitan noncore counties with an urban population less than 10,000), the higher its share of residents with self-reported disabilities. Survey respondents ages 18 to 64 in the civilian nonistitutionalzed population were asked if they had serious difficulty with hearing, vision, cognitive ability, walking or climbing stairs, self-care, and independent living. Those who responded that they had difficulty with one or more of these conditions were reported to have a disability. Urban areas (metropolitan counties with an urban core population of 50,000 or more) had the lowest disability rates. The highest disability rates were found in the micropolitan and noncore South, while the Midwest had the lowest rural disability rates. Contributing negatively to the health conditions of rural residents are their lower average socioeconomic status, higher incidence of both smoking and obesity, lower levels of physical activity, older average age, and higher risks of workplace hazards. And in areas losing population, as is true of many rural areas, if the disabled are less likely to migrate, disability rates will increase over time. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Health Status and Health Care Access of Farm and Rural Populations, EIB-57, August 2009.

Persistent-poverty counties are mostly nonmetro, generally Southern

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An important dimension of poverty is time. An area that has a high level of poverty this year, but not next year, is likely better off than an area that has a high level of poverty in both years. To shed light on this aspect of poverty, ERS has defined counties as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more of their populations were living in poverty over the last 30 years (measured by the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses and the 2007-11 American Community Survey). Using this definition, there were 353 persistently poor counties in the United States. The large majority (301) of the persistent-poverty counties were nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) and exhibited a strong regional pattern. There are no nonmetro persistent-poverty counties in the Northeast, 29 nonmetro persistent-poverty counties in the Midwest, and 20 in the West. The remaining 252 nonmetro persistent-poverty counties are in the South, comprising just over 26 percent of the total Southern nonmetro population. This map is one of the county classifications found in the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America on the ERS website.

Nonmetro poverty at its highest in more than 25 years

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Nonmetro areas have had a higher rate of poverty than metro areas since the 1960s, when poverty rates were first officially recorded. Over time, the difference between nonmetro and metro poverty rates has fluctuated, falling from an average difference of 4.5 percentage points in the 1980s to a record low of 1.6 percentage points in 2010, as the metro poverty rate rose faster than the nonmetro rate over 2006-10. Because of the uneven economic recovery following the 2007-09 economic recession, nonmetro poverty rose slightly in 2011 (to 17.0 percent) and again in 2012 (to 17.7 percent), while the poverty rate fell slightly in metro areas. As a result, the nonmetro poverty rate is at its highest level since 1986 and is now 3.2 percentage points higher than the metro poverty rate. This chart is an updated version of one found in the Rural Poverty and Well-Being topic page on the ERS website.

The number and share of veterans living in rural America is declining

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The number of veterans living in rural areas has been falling at an increasing rate, dropping from about 4.5 million in 2007 to 3.4 million in 2014, despite an influx of more than 100,000 post-9/11 veterans over the same period. This overall decline was largely due to natural decrease in the pre-Vietnam era population. The World War II rural veteran cohort alone declined by more than 400,000, with additional losses among all other service cohorts. Despite these declines, veterans continue to be overrepresented in rural America. In 2014, rural areas accounted for 17.5 percent of the total veteran population but only 14.7 percent of the U.S. civilian adult population. However, the rural share of the veteran population has been declining and is likely to decline further in the near future, as the newest veteran cohorts have overwhelmingly returned to urban areas and the current rural veteran population ages. Find county-level maps and data on the U.S. veteran population in ERS?s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.

Employment growth in nonmetro micropolitan and noncore counties has lagged growth in metro counties since 2010

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Metropolitan (metro) counties have fared better than both micropolitan and noncore counties (shown in the map) following the 2007-09 recession.? ERS researchers generally define ?rural? as micropolitan and noncore counties (together referred to as nonmetropolitan or nonmetro counties), and ?urban? as metropolitan or metro counties.? During the National economic recovery period between 2010 and 2012, employment increased by 2.5 percent in metro counties, compared with 1.1 percent in micropolitan, and 0.5 percent in noncore counties.? Metro counties are densely settled counties with an urban core population of 50,000 or more, and outlying counties tied to the central core by labor force commuting. Micropolitan counties are similar to metro counties, but include an urban core with a population between 10,000 to 49,999, and outlying counties tied to the core by commuting.? Noncore areas are the remaining counties that are neither metro nor micropolitan. As of February 2013, the Office of Management and Budget identified 1,167 metro counties, 641 micropolitan counties, and 1,335 noncore counties. This map is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Classifications, updated in May 2013.

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.

American Indians remain disproportionally rural

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Despite rapid increases in their urban population in recent decades, American Indians (including Alaska native populations but excluding those reporting more than one race) remain disproportionately rural compared with other groups. Based on self-identified race, 29 percent of all American Indians lived in rural areas in 2010, compared with about 15 percent of the total U.S. population. Persistent out-migration of rural residents finishing high school was as pronounced among American Indians as it was for the rural population as a whole, reflected in a slight dip in the percentage of working age adults residing in rural America. In addition, 52 percent of rural American Indians and the rural U.S. population in general were age 20-59, indicating an equal level of economic dependency on rural working-age adults, whether American Indian or not. But rural American Indians are much more likely to be young (under 20) than the total rural population (which has a higher share of population age 60 and older), putting very different pressures on family finances and public support programs.? Find county-level data on the American Indian and Alaska Native population in ERS?s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.

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.

Rural high-poverty counties are concentrated in the South and Southwest

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The national poverty rate (based on pre-tax income of less than $23,492 for an average family of four) was 15.0 percent in 2012; the rate was 17.7 percent in nonmetro areas and 14.5 percent in metro areas. High-poverty counties?those with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher?are often geographically clustered. During 2007-11, there were 703 high-poverty counties in the United States; 571 were nonmetro, mostly in the South and Southwest. Most newly-classified rural high-poverty counties are located adjacent to clusters of historically high-poverty counties, but some were outside these clusters, mainly in areas with substantial losses in the real estate market and manufacturing employment between 2006 and 2009. This map is found in Rural America at a Glance, 2013 edition, released November 2013.

An aging rural veteran population declined over the last 20 years

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Nearly 4 million veterans resided in rural (nonmetropolitan) America in 2012. They are a rapidly aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise over 10 percent of the rural adult population despite their persistently declining numbers; the number of veterans living in rural areas declined from 6.6 million in 1992 to 3.8 million in 2012. A drop in the size of the active military population since 1990, from 3 million to roughly 1.4 million, and natural decrease due to aging (over half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared to 18 percent of the nonveteran rural population) means the downward trend in the number of rural veterans will likely continue for many years. Whether due to their military service or because of their age profile, over 20 percent of rural, working-age veterans report disability status compared with 11 percent of nonveterans. Taken together, their older age and higher incidence of disabilities make the well-being of rural veterans, as a group, increasingly dependent on access to medical care in rural areas. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Incomes remained lower for the poorest rural families with children in 2014

Thursday, September 1, 2016

By 2014, average income (adjusted for inflation) for all U.S. families with children exceeded prerecession levels, and average income had almost completely recovered for all rural families with children as well. For the bottom 25 percent of rural families (when ranked by income), however, average income remained considerably below its prior peak. In 2003, the average income for families in this lowest income quartile was $17,200 (in 2014 dollars) and it fell by 6.0 percent between 2003 and 2007, despite the fact that the U.S. economy was growing. Not surprisingly, incomes for the bottom quartile fell by another 4.6 percent between 2007 and 2010, due to the Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009). When economic growth resumed, however, it did not immediately translate into growth for these low-income rural families: by 2012, their average income had fallen by another 10.1 percent. Average income for the bottom quartile rebounded somewhat between 2012 and 2014, but remained 13.4 percent below the 2003 level. This chart is based on the Amber Waves feature, ?Understanding Trends in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-14.?

Rural veterans work in higher-paying industries

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Employment challenges facing recent military veterans are similar to those faced by all new civilian labor force entrants.? In addition to these challenges, veterans also face higher rates of disability.? The practical skills recent veterans have acquired are often superior to those of their nonveteran peers. As a result, the positive economic impacts veterans are likely making in rural America once they find work and start their careers can be seen in employment differences by industry. Rural veterans were more likely than rural nonveterans to be employed in higher-skilled, higher-paying industries in 2011, including manufacturing and professional and business services. ?While lower-paying industries such as education and health services, and leisure and hospitality (hotels, restaurants, etc.) employed over 30 percent of rural nonveteran workers in 2011, only 17 percent of rural veterans worked in these service industries. Just over 6 percent of rural veterans worked in agriculture (including fishing, forestry, and hunting). This chart is found in the ERS report Rural Veterans At A Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

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