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SNAP redemptions had larger effect on county employment during the Great Recession than before or after

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided benefits to an average of more than 46 million recipients per month and accounted for 52 percent of USDA’s spending in 2014. That year, SNAP recipients redeemed more than $69 billion worth of benefits. Recent ERS research estimated the effect of SNAP redemptions on county-level employment. During and immediately after the Great Recession (2008–10), each additional $10,000 in SNAP redemptions contributed on average 1.04 additional jobs in rural counties and 0.41 job in urban counties. By contrast, before the recession (2001–07), SNAP redemptions had a much smaller positive effect on employment in rural counties (about 0.25 job per $10,000 in redemptions) and a negative effect in urban counties (a loss of about 0.22 job per $10,000 in redemptions). After the recession (2011–14), SNAP redemptions had a statistically insignificant effect on employment in both rural and urban counties. Per dollar spent, the effect of SNAP redemptions on local employment during the recession was greater than the employment effect of other government transfer payments combined—including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance compensation, and veterans’ benefits—and also the employment effect of total Federal Government spending. SNAP’s relatively large effect on employment during the recession may owe to the fact that, unlike many other government programs, SNAP payments are provided directly to low-income people, who tend to immediately spend additional income. This chart uses data found in the May 2019 ERS report, The Impacts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Redemptions on County-Level Employment. Also see the May 2019 article, “SNAP Redemptions Contributed to Employment During the Great Recession” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

ICYMI... 2018 Farm Act mandates spending of $428 billion over 5 years

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act) was signed into law December 20, 2018, and will remain in force through the end of fiscal year 2023, although some provisions extend beyond 2023. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that the new Farm Act would mandate spending of $428 billion dollars over the next 5 fiscal years (2019-2023). A large majority of projected spending—76 percent ($326.02 billion)—would fund nutrition programs, with most going to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Crop insurance ($38.01 billion), farm commodity programs ($31.44 billion), and conservation programs ($29.27 billion) accounted for nearly all of the remaining outlays. Approximately 0.8 percent ($3.54 billion) would fund all other programs, including trade, credit, rural development, research and extension, forestry, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous programs. Overall, the 2018 Farm Act made fewer changes to food and farm policy than the 2014 Farm Act. Nutrition policy, particularly SNAP, continued with minor changes. Crop insurance options and agricultural commodity programs continued largely as under the 2014 Farm Act. All major conservation programs continued, although some were modified significantly. This chart appears on the USDA Website page, “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018: Highlights and Implications,” dated December 20, 2018. This Chart of Note was originally published January 28, 2019.

Rural population gains among Native Americans and Hispanics have offset population losses among Whites and Blacks

Friday, July 19, 2019

Rural America, with racial/ethnic minorities making up 22 percent of the population in 2016-17, has continued to diversify, but at a slower rate compared to 2012-13. The annual rate of population loss among rural Whites fell from -0.44 to -0.20 percent between 2012-13 and 2016-17. This change is likely due to changes in net migration, with fewer Whites moving out and more moving into rural areas in 2016-17 compared with 2012-13. The rural Black population continued to lose population in 2016-17 as well, but at a higher rate of loss than earlier (-0.20 versus -0.14 percent in 2012-13). Population gains among American Indians and Hispanics have offset population losses among Whites and Blacks. American Indians increased their rural population throughout the period but at diminishing rates, while the Hispanic rate of growth remained near 2 percent per year throughout the period. Although Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the rural population, they accounted for just 9 percent of the rural population in 2017 (compared to 80 percent for Whites). This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2018 Edition.

High rates of disability among farmers are concentrated in the South

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Farmers face various occupational hazards (such as machinery, livestock, and chemicals) that can lead to temporary or permanent disabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau defines disabilities as having at least one of the following health difficulties: vision, hearing, physical, cognitive, self-care (difficulty dressing or bathing), or independent living (difficulty performing errands, such as visits to the doctor’s office or shopping). Recent ERS research estimated that an average of about 20 percent of U.S. farmers (395,000 people) had a disability at some point between 2008 and 2016. The probability of disability among farmers increased with age but was lower for farmers who had higher education levels, were female (compared to male), or were married (compared to unmarried). The most common disabilities included physical (10 percent of farmers) and hearing (8 percent of farmers). Average disability rates varied by State. For example, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa were in the quintile with the lowest disability rates on average (12.3 percent to 16.3 percent), while Louisiana, Alabama, and Tennessee were in that with the highest farmer disability rates (23.0 percent to 27.1 percent). This chart appears in the April 2019 Amber Waves finding, “Disabilities in the U.S. Farm Population.”

SNAP participation and benefits grew rapidly during and after the Great Recession

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest USDA program. During fiscal year 2014, it provided benefits to an average of more than 46 million recipients per month and accounted for 52 percent of USDA’s spending. That year, SNAP recipients redeemed more than $69 billion worth of benefits at SNAP-authorized stores—83 percent of which were located in urban areas and 17 percent in rural areas. Between fiscal years 2000 and 2013, average monthly SNAP participation nearly tripled, while the inflation-adjusted value of benefits paid under the program nearly quadrupled. The growth in program participation and the value of benefits paid were particularly rapid during and immediately after the Great Recession, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. However, the recession resulted in high poverty rates well after it officially ended. The increase in program spending between 2009 and 2013 was due in part to rising SNAP participation in response to high levels of poverty during this period. A temporary increase in benefit rates mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in early 2009 and other policies to increase access to the program also likely expanded SNAP participation and spending. This chart appears in the May 2019 ERS report Investigating Impacts of SNAP Redemptions on County-Level Employment. Also see the May 2019 article, “SNAP Redemptions Contributed to Employment During the Great Recession” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Rural families headed by single adults had higher poverty rates than urban counterparts in 2017

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Family type has a significant bearing on poverty. For example, families headed by two adults are likely to have more sources of income than single-adult families—and are therefore less likely to be poor. In 2017, nearly 33.8 percent of rural families headed by a female with no spouse present and 18.5 percent of those headed by a male with no spouse present fell below the poverty threshold. In contrast, 6 percent of rural families with a married couple were poor. On average, 11.6 percent of all rural families were poor. Poverty rates for single-adult families were higher than average for urban area residents as well in 2017, but overall family poverty rates were higher in rural than in urban areas. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated March 2019.

Racial and ethnic minorities made up 22 percent of the rural population in 2017 compared to 42 percent in urban areas

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Rural America is less racially and ethnically diverse than the Nation’s urban areas. In 2017, Whites accounted for nearly 80 percent of the rural population (compared to 58 percent in urban areas). While Hispanics were the fastest-growing segment of the rural population, they account for only 9 percent of the rural population (20 percent in urban areas). Blacks made up 8 percent of the rural population (13 percent in urban areas). American Indians were the only minority group with a higher rural (2 percent) than urban share (0.5 percent). Relatively few Asians and Pacific Islanders (included in the “Other” category) were rural residents, with these groups accounting for 1 and 0.1 percent of the rural population, respectively. The rest of the “Other” category reported multiple races and accounted for 1.8 percent of the rural population. This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report, Rural America at a Glance, 2018 Edition.

Historic Midwest flooding severely impacts rural counties in Iowa and Nebraska

Thursday, April 25, 2019

In March 2019, historic flooding led to a major disaster declaration covering 121 counties in Iowa and Nebraska. The disaster declaration covers nearly half of the population in Iowa and 93 percent of the population in Nebraska. Of the 3.3 million people living in one of the designated disaster counties in 2017, over 37 percent (1.2 million) lived in rural areas. In 2017, Iowa and Nebraska were the second- and fourth-ranked States, respectively, in agricultural cash receipts. Iowa also ranked second in total agricultural exports and was the top exporter of soybeans, pork, corn, and feed grains. Nebraska led the Nation in beef and veal exports, and ranked third among States in corn, processed grain products, and feed grain exports. Based on the 2017 Census of Agriculture, designated disaster counties produced 66 percent of the market value of agricultural products sold in Iowa and 75 percent of those sold in Nebraska. Together, the designated disaster counties accounted for 9.2 percent of the total U.S. market value of agricultural products sold in 2017. This chart uses data from the ERS State Facts Sheet data product, updated March 2019.

Rural telehealth participation rates vary by the activity

Friday, April 19, 2019

Compared with traditional medical delivery systems, telehealth—personal health services or activities conducted through the internet—allows people to participate more actively in their health care. It also facilitates timely and convenient monitoring of ongoing conditions for those who may participate in connected telehealth practices. To better understand the factors affecting telehealth use, ERS researchers examined rural residents’ participation in three telehealth activities: online health research; online health maintenance (such as contacting providers, maintaining records, and paying bills); and online health monitoring (the transmission of data gathered by remote medical devices to medical personnel). Findings show that participation rates for telehealth activities varied in 2015. Many participants reported conducting only one telehealth activity, such as the 10.7 percent of participants who conducted only online health research. Some people conducted more than one telehealth activity, such as the 0.8 percent who conducted online health research, online health maintenance, and online health monitoring. The majority of participants who conducted both health maintenance and health monitoring also conducted online health research. This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report, Rural Individuals' Telehealth Practices: An Overview.

Poverty rates in rural and urban areas vary across U.S. regions

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Poverty rates in rural (nonmetro) areas have historically been higher than in urban (metro) areas, and the rural/urban poverty gap is greater in some regions of the country than others. For example, the gap has historically been largest in the South. In 2013–17, the South had an average rural poverty rate of 20.8 percent—nearly 6 percentage points higher than the average rate in the region’s urban areas. The difference in the South’s poverty rates is particularly important because an estimated 42.6 percent of the Nation’s rural population and 51.1 percent of the Nation’s rural poor lived in this region between 2013 and 2017. By comparison, 36.9 percent of the urban population and 39.1 percent of the urban poor lived in the South during that period. The poverty gap was smallest in the Midwest and the Northeast—with less than a percentage point difference between rural and urban poverty rates. This chart appears on the ERS topic page “Rural Poverty & Well-being,” updated March 2019.

Vietnam-era veterans represent the largest share of all rural veterans

Friday, March 29, 2019

Between 1964 and 1973, an estimated 8.8 million persons were drafted or volunteered to serve in the U.S. armed forces during the period of the Vietnam war, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports. As of 2017, there were about 6.8 million Vietnam-era veterans in the United States, ranging in age from 55 to nearly 100 (average age, 68). About 1.3 million, or 19.2 percent, of them lived in rural America. In total, Vietnam-era veterans made up 39.6 percent of all rural veterans and 52.1 percent of rural veterans who served during wartime. By comparison, Vietnam-era veterans represented 35.1 percent of all urban veterans and 45.4 percent of urban veterans who served during wartime. Among rural Vietnam veterans, 4.2 percent of them also served in post-Vietnam conflicts. However, Vietnam-era veterans represent a very different sociodemographic group compared to other post-Vietnam veterans. Not only are they older on average, but they are also less diverse in gender and race. Vietnam veterans are also more likely to be disabled (although not necessarily service-related), have higher educational attainment rates, and lower poverty rates than post-Vietnam veterans. This chart uses data from the ERS data product Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America, updated February 2019.

Improving rural net migration rates were most common in recreation and retirement destinations

Friday, March 8, 2019

People moving to rural areas tend to favor more densely settled areas with attractive scenic qualities, or those near large cities. Over 1,100 rural counties (58 percent) showed positive changes in net migration (inmigrants minus outmigrants) between 2012–13 and 2016–17. These counties are often located in recreation and retirement destinations attractive to newcomers—such as the Upper Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest, the southern Appalachians, Florida, and the Hill Country of central Texas. Nearly 500 of these counties switched from net outmigration in 2012–13 to net inmigration in 2016–17. Fewer people are moving to sparsely settled, less scenic, and remote locations, which compounds economic development challenges in those areas. Despite increasing net migration generally, 42 percent of rural counties experienced a decrease in net migration between 2012–13 and 2016–17. These counties are in low-density, remote areas in the Nation’s Heartland, in Appalachia from eastern Kentucky to Maine, and in high-poverty areas in the Southeast and border areas of the Southwest. Some of these areas have suffered job losses related to lower oil and gas production. This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2018 Edition.

2018 Farm Act mandates spending of $428 billion over 5 years

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act) was signed into law December 20, 2018, and will remain in force through the end of fiscal year 2023, although some provisions extend beyond 2023. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the new Farm Act will mandate spending of $428 billion dollars over the next 5 fiscal years (2019-2023). A large majority of projected spending—76 percent ($326.02 billion)—will fund nutrition programs, with most going to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Crop insurance ($38.01 billion), farm commodity programs ($31.44 billion), and conservation programs ($29.27 billion) account for nearly all of the remaining outlays. Approximately 0.8 percent ($3.54 billion) will fund all other programs, including trade, credit, rural development, research and extension, forestry, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous programs. Overall, the new Farm Act makes fewer changes to food and farm policy than the 2014 Farm Act. Nutrition policy, particularly SNAP, will continue with minor changes. Crop insurance options and agricultural commodity programs will continue largely as under the 2014 Farm Act. All major conservation programs will continue, although some were modified significantly. This chart appears in “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018: Highlights and Implications,” December 20, 2018.

Farm wages are rising, both in inflation-adjusted terms and in relation to nonfarm wages

Thursday, November 29, 2018

In recent years, farmers have reported rising labor shortages. These anecdotal reports are supported by USDA data, which show average wages for nonsupervisory farm laborers rose more quickly since 2014 than previously. Economists consider inflation-adjusted wage growth to strongly indicate labor shortages in a given industry. From 2014 to 2017, the farm wage grew faster than the nonfarm wage, rising from 55 percent to 57 of the nonfarm wage. Between 2014 and 2017, the average hourly wage for nonsupervisory hired farmworkers rose from $11.69 to $12.47, an increase of 7 percent. In contrast, over the same period, the rise in hourly wage for all nonsupervisory production workers outside of agriculture rose from $21.34 to $22.05, an increase of just over 3 percent. Inflation-adjusted wage growth slowed in 2017 because of lower rates of nominal (non-adjusted) wage growth and an uptick in inflation—a trend that has continued into 2018. As of April 2018, nonsupervisory farm wages averaged $12.74 per hour in nominal terms, an increase of 3 percent over April 2017. This chart appears in the ERS report, “Farm Labor Markets in the United States and Mexico Pose Challenges for U.S. Agriculture,” released in November 2018.

Rural residents with higher educational attainment were more likely to engage in telehealth activities

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Compared to traditional medical delivery systems, telehealth—health services or activities conducted through the internet—allows people to more actively participate in their health care. It also facilitates timely and convenient monitoring of ongoing conditions. To better understand the factors affecting telehealth use, ERS researchers examined rural residents’ participation in three telehealth activities: online health research, online health maintenance (such as contacting providers, maintaining records, and paying bills), and online health monitoring (the transmission of data gathered by remote medical devices to medical personnel). The ERS analysis looked at a number of socioeconomic factors—including family income, educational attainment, age, and employment type and status—that may affect a person’s choice to engage in telehealth activities. Findings show that participation rates for telehealth activities in 2015 increased with the level of educational attainment. For example, rural residents with college degrees were over 5 times more likely to conduct online health research than residents without a high school diploma, and more than 10 times as likely to engage in the other telehealth activities. This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report, Rural Individuals’ Telehealth Practices: An Overview.

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

Friday, November 9, 2018

Rural veterans find themselves in a better employment position today than they did in the years following the Great Recession. The unemployment rate for rural veterans has declined since peaking at 10.3 percent in 2010. In 2017, it stood at 4.6 percent, its lowest rate in the last decade. 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 7.1 percent in 2017. Young transitioning veterans can face high unemployment due to service-related disability or a lack of civilian work experience, which become greater obstacles when the economy is weak. Although the post-recession national economic upturn is driving a drop in unemployment for all veterans, a concerted national effort to hire veterans also appears to be helping close the employment gap for young veterans. That effort includes greater recognition of the skills veterans learn during their service—such as discipline and timeliness—and the value of those skills on the job. This chart provides an update to the ERS report, Rural Veterans at a Glance.

In 2016-17, the rural population increased for the first time this decade, due to lower population loss from net migration

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The decline in U.S. rural population, which began in 2010, has reversed for the first time this decade. In 2016-17, the rural population increased by 0.1 percent (adding 33,000 people). This recent upturn in rural population growth stems from increasing rates of net migration, which includes urban-to-rural migration as well as immigration from foreign countries. Rural net migration increased from −0.25 percent in 2011-12 to essentially zero in 2016-17. During the same period, population growth from natural change (births minus deaths) dropped from 0.12 percent to 0.08 percent. This continues a long-term downward trend in growth rates from natural change due to lower fertility rates, an aging population, and, more recently, increasing mortality rates for some age groups. While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions. With growth from natural change projected to continue falling, future population growth in rural America will depend more on increasing net migration—which has coincided with declining rural unemployment, rising incomes, and declining poverty since 2013. These improved labor market conditions have allowed rural areas to retain more residents and attract more newcomers. The total rural population has remained close to 46.1 million since 2013. This chart appears in the November 2018 ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2018 Edition.

Rural education levels are increasing, but still lag behind urban areas

Monday, October 22, 2018

Although the overall educational attainment of rural adults has increased markedly over time, the share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is still higher in urban areas. Between 2000 and 2016, the share of urban adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher grew from 26 percent to 33 percent, while in rural areas the share grew from 15 percent to 19 percent. This gap may be partly due to the higher pay premiums offered in urban areas to workers with college degrees. Also, between 2000 and 2016, the share of rural adults with less than a high school diploma or equivalent decreased from 24 percent to 14 percent. That decline closed the rural-urban gap in high school completion rates: over the same period, the share of urban adults without a high school degree or equivalent fell from 19 percent to 12 percent. This chart appears on the ERS topic page for Rural Education, updated August 2018.

Urban areas offer higher earnings for workers with higher levels of education

Friday, September 7, 2018

The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey show that workers with higher levels of education had higher median earnings, both in rural and urban areas. For example, median earnings for rural working adults with a high school diploma were $27,773 in 2016, which was $6,243 more than the median for rural working adults without a high school diploma or equivalent. 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. This rural-urban earnings gap was lowest ($350) for workers with less than a high school diploma or equivalent and largest ($18,273) for those with graduate or professional degrees. 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 on the ERS topic page for Rural Education, updated August 2018.

Elder veterans tend to reside in rural counties and near military bases

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Veterans constitute a rapidly aging and increasingly diverse group disproportionally living in rural America. Nearly 18 percent of veterans lived in rural (nonmetro) counties in 2015, compared to 15 percent of the U.S. adult civilian population. Veterans were also overrepresented in some rural counties: about 10 percent of all rural civilian adults were veterans, but in some rural counties, that share reached as high as 25 percent. The U.S. counties with the highest shares of veterans tended to have significant concentrations of elder veterans (65 years or older), relative to the Nation as a whole. About 24 percent of all U.S. counties—often completely rural counties not adjacent to metro areas—had concentrations of elder veterans. By comparison, 28 percent of all U.S. counties—predominantly large urban counties (not shown)—contained concentrations of working-age veterans (18 to 65 years old). Areas with concentrations of both groups were mostly in rural counties adjacent to metro areas (19 percent). Many of these counties contained or were near military installations, reserve bases, or training areas. This chart appears in the September 2017 Amber Waves data feature, “Veterans Are Positioned To Contribute Economically to Rural Communities.”

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