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In 2015, annual earnings in rural areas were 15 percent lower than earnings in urban areas

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Earnings generally differ between rural and urban areas, and by industry. In 2015, overall annual earnings were 15 percent lower in rural areas. The gap between rural and urban earnings was largest in the producer service sector—which includes industries such as finance, insurance, and real estate; information; and professional, administrative, and related services. For example, rural information workers earned about $20,000 less than their urban counterparts in 2015. Producer service firms in urban areas employ more professional and managerial workers, contributing to the earnings premium in urban areas. The rural-urban earnings gap was also relatively large in manufacturing, where rural areas have long been associated with lower skill, less technically advanced operations. Still, median earnings in rural manufacturing are above those for any other rural sector except for mining. The relatively high earnings in manufacturing jobs explain the continued emphasis that many rural stakeholders place on attracting or retaining these jobs. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, released November 2016.

Nonmetro counties in the majority of States would gain jobs from increased demand for U.S. agricultural exports

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

U.S. agricultural exports support about 1.1 million full-time, civilian jobs, according to 2017 ERS estimates (based on 2015 data). A recent ERS study considered how U.S. employment might be affected if the demand for these exports increased even further. To find out, ERS researchers used a computational model of the U.S. economy to explore the possible effects of a hypothetical 10-percent increase in foreign demand for U.S. agricultural products. The findings were broken apart between results for metro counties with less direct agricultural activity and nonmetro counties, where most farming occurs. Of the 47 states with nonmetro counties, 39 were estimated to gain jobs from an increase in export demand. The current level of employment in the agri-food sector (agricultural production plus food and beverage manufacturing) was a key factor in explaining the size of the simulation’s regional employment effects. There were 16 nonmetro regions where the agri-food sector accounted for more than 10 percent of total employment, ranging from nonmetro Iowa (11 percent) to Washington State (26 percent). As a group, these regions accounted for just 5 percent of U.S. employment but 32 percent of the total employment gain for the United States resulting from the simulated increase in agricultural exports. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, "Increased Demand for U.S. Agricultural Exports Would Likely Lead to More U.S. Jobs," released in June 2017.

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.

Survival rates of manufacturing plants vary by county type and ownership structure

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Between the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, U.S. manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. In many communities, the closing of a manufacturing plant can reduce local employment, earnings, and government tax revenue. To improve understanding of the factors affecting the survival of manufacturing plants, ERS studied plant survival over a 15-year period (1996 to 2011). Over this period, the average survival rate—the share of plants that were still employers—in rural (nonmetro) counties was 57 percent. By comparison, plants in urban (metro) counties had an average survival rate of 53 percent during this period. Survival rates also varied by ownership structure: Overall, independent plants (single-unit plants with only one physical location) had a 59-percent survival rate, while multi-unit plants had a 50-percent survival rate. Independent plants located in rural counties had the highest average survival rate (62 percent). Although States and regions have long tended to put more effort into recruiting and retaining multi-unit plants, the research shows that independent plants are more likely to survive—in both rural and urban counties. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural Manufacturing Resilience: Factors Associated With Plant Survival, 1996-2011, released May 2017.

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.

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.

Rural counties’ economies depend on different industries

Monday, January 23, 2017

Local economies and employment levels are more sensitive to economic trends that have a pronounced effect on their leading industries. For example, trends in agricultural prices have a disproportionate impact in farming-dependent counties, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of all rural counties and 6 percent of the rural population in 2015. The boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production increased employment in many mining-dependent rural counties; more recently, lower oil and gas prices have led to reduced oil exploration and economic activity in these counties. Meanwhile, the decline in manufacturing employment has particularly affected manufacturing-dependent counties, which accounted for about 18 percent of rural counties and 23 percent of the rural population. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, released November 2016.

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.

Employment grows in 3 out of 5 rural counties

Monday, December 5, 2016

Employment grew in about 60 percent of rural counties (1,227 out of 1,976) between the first half of 2015 and the first half of 2016. Rural counties with rising employment levels were located in all regions of the country, but concentrated in the Midwest, the Southeast, and Pacific Northwest. Many counties with falling employment levels were located in States with significant oil and gas resources that had seen employment growth in past years, such as North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania; this trend reflects a recent decline in mining activity. Rural employment has risen modestly—including an increase of about 1.3 percent between 2013 and 2015—as the national economy has recovered since employment levels bottomed out in 2010. Employment grew another 0.5 percent between the end of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016, when it reached more than 20 million workers. Still, the overall rural employment level remains well below its pre-recession level. This map appears in the topic page for Rural Employment and Unemployment on the ERS website, updated November 2016.

Remoteness presents economic challenges for many American Indian and Alaska Native communities

Monday, November 21, 2016

Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population (2.3 million people) identify solely as American Indians or Alaska Natives, according to the latest Census population estimates. A third of American Indians and Native Americans live in counties where they make up 10 percent or more of the population. These 122 counties are located in either historic tribal areas or in areas of reservation resettlement. Almost all are sparsely populated rural counties located in remote regions of the country, such as Alaska, the American Southwest, the Great Plains, or along the Canadian border from Washington to Michigan. They include only two urbanized centers with 50,000 or more people: Flagstaff, Arizona and Farmington, New Mexico. High poverty and low employment prospects present considerable challenges to many American Indians and Alaska Natives living in remote settings. The unemployment rate in these counties was 6.6 percent in 2015 compared with 5.3 percent nationally. This map is based on data found in the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America, updated to 2015.

Differences between rural and urban economies reflect differences in their industrial composition

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Many of the differences between rural and urban economies reflect differences in their industrial composition. While service industries account for the largest share of jobs and earnings in both rural and urban areas, rural areas are more dependent on manufacturing and industries producing primary goods—such as farming, forestry, and mining. Industries producing primary goods provide more than 11 percent of rural jobs, but only 2 percent of urban jobs. Manufacturing accounts for nearly 15 percent of rural earnings and just over 9 percent of urban earnings. In contrast, urban areas are more heavily dependent on producer services—such as finance, insurance, and real estate—which account for about 28 percent of urban jobs, but less than 16 percent of rural jobs. The disparity in earnings is even greater: the producer services sector contributed 31 percent of urban earnings, but only about 12 percent of rural earnings. This difference reflects higher earnings per job in urban areas, where that sector provides more highly specialized services and employs more managerial and professional staff. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, released November 14, 2016.

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.

Hispanics help some rural counties avoid population loss

Monday, September 19, 2016

Between 2010 and 2015, the population of rural and small-town America declined by 0.3 percent, according to Census population estimates. This loss of 137,000 people was a relatively small change that masked larger racial-ethnic trends. The non-Hispanic White population declined by 738,000 in rural (nonmetro) counties, while all other racial-ethnic groups increased by 601,000. The rural Hispanic population alone grew by 376,000 (10 percent) during this time period. The increasing Hispanic population helped nearly 10 percent of rural counties (188 counties) in Texas, New Mexico, and 32 other states maintain population growth, continuing a 30-year trend. Immigration and domestic migration drove this trend early on as Hispanic workers filled jobs in textiles, food processing, and other agricultural-related industries. Today, immigration has slowed and most of the growth in the rural Hispanic population comes from natural increase (more births than deaths). The resulting change in the composition of Hispanic families may lead to new community needs for housing, schools, and family services. Find county-level maps and data on the U.S. Hispanic population in ERS’s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.

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.

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.

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