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Counties with low educational attainment were concentrated in rural areas

Monday, July 13, 2020

Between 2014 and 2018, the United States had 316 counties with low levels of educational attainment, meaning 20 percent or more of working-age adults (ages 25-64) living in the county lacked a high school diploma or equivalent. The majority of those counties—about 4 out of 5—were in rural (nonmetro) areas. Low-education rural counties were predominantly in the South (nearly 80 percent or 208 counties) and the economies of more than one-third (116 counties) relied on farming or manufacturing. Nearly half (156 counties) were high poverty counties, with a poverty rate of 20 percent or more, and most of those counties (113 counties) also had persistently high poverty over three or more decades. In addition, almost 60 percent of low-education rural counties were in areas where African Americans alone (70 counties) or Hispanics of any race (115 counties) accounted for 20 percent or more of the total population. In these counties, the low-education rates for African Americans or Hispanics were substantially higher than corresponding rates for white (non-Hispanic) individuals. This chart appears on the ERS topic page for Rural Education, updated May 2020.

As the rural veteran population declined, the share that were age 65 or older increased

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Veterans are a rapidly aging and increasingly diverse group, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the rural adult population in 2018. However, the number of veterans living in rural (nonmetro) areas has declined from 6.6 million in 1992 to 3.2 million in 2018. This decline was due largely to a drop in the size of the active military population (from about 3 million in 1992 to 1.3 million in 2018), natural decrease due to aging, and a tendency for younger veterans to settle in urban (metro) areas. Nearly 60 percent of rural veterans were ages 65 or older in 2018, and half of that group were ages 75 or older. By comparison, in 1992, the share of rural veterans age 65 or older was closer to 30 percent. This trend suggests that the number of rural veterans may continue to decline in the future. In addition, whether due to their military service or because of their age profile, over 30 percent of rural veterans reported having a disability in 2018, compared with about 15 percent of nonveterans. Older age and a higher incidence of disabilities may make rural veterans, as a group, increasingly vulnerable. This chart updates data found in the Economic Research Service report, Rural Veterans at a Glance, released November 2013.

All counties with extreme poverty in 2018 were rural (nonmetro) counties

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

In 2018, the United States had 664 high-poverty counties, where an average of 20 percent or more of the population had lived below the Federal poverty level on average over 2014-18. The majority were rural (78.9 percent, or 524 counties). These high-poverty counties represented about one of every four rural counties, compared with about one of every ten urban counties. Fifteen of the 664 counties were extreme poverty areas, where the poverty rate was 40 percent or greater. The extreme poverty areas were also persistent poverty counties, with poverty rates of at least 20 percent over the past 30 years. In 2018, all of the extreme poverty counties were in rural America. These counties are not evenly distributed, but rather are geographically concentrated and disproportionately located in regions with above-average populations of racial minorities. Several extreme poverty counties, for instance, were found in Mississippi, including four counties where there has historically been a high incidence of poverty among the African-American population. These counties were also found in South Dakota, with six counties where Native Americans made up more than 50 percent of the population. This chart appears on the Economic Research Service topic page for Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated February 2020. It is also in the May 2020 Amber Waves article, “Extreme Poverty Counties Found Solely in Rural Areas in 2018.”

Highest U.S. poverty rates are in the South, with over 20 percent poor in its rural areas

Friday, March 13, 2020

People living in poverty tend to be clustered in certain U.S. regions, counties, and neighborhoods, rather than being spread evenly across the Nation. 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. At the regional level, poverty is disproportionately concentrated in the rural South. In 2014-18, the South had an average rural poverty rate of 20.5 percent—nearly 6 percentage points higher than the average rate in the region’s urban areas. An estimated 42.7 percent of the Nation’s rural population and 51.3 percent of the Nation’s rural poor lived in this region between 2014 and 2018. By comparison, 37.1 percent of the urban population and 39.4 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 Economic Research Service topic page for Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated February 2020.

Business & Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loans reduced risk of rural business failure

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

USDA’s Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program guarantees loans to businesses in rural areas in partnership with private-sector lenders. By reducing lenders’ risk, the program encourages lenders to provide more generous terms or larger principal amounts, or to approve loans to rural businesses that they otherwise might not make. ERS researchers estimated business survival rates between 1990 and 2013 for B&I loan recipients and a comparison group of non-recipients similar to loan recipients. On average, 2 years after receiving a B&I loan, recipients were 90 percent less likely to fail in the next year than the group of similar non-recipients. The effect of B&I loans on survival rates declined with time. Nevertheless, 4 years after receiving a B&I loan, recipients were still 79 percent less likely to fail in the next year than similar non-recipients. And 6 years after receiving a B&I loan, recipients were 72 percent less likely to fail in the next year than similar non-recipients. The B&I Loan Program’s strong effects on business survival suggest that the program has helped retain existing jobs in local communities. This chart appears in the September 2019 Amber Waves finding, “Rural Businesses That Receive USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans Less Likely To Fail.”

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

Tuesday, December 10, 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. This Chart of Note was originally published May 29, 2019.

Veterans in agriculture more likely to be self-employed than those with no military service

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Between 2013 and 2017, there was an average of 18.9 million military veterans and 4.3 million persons on active duty or serving in the reserves or National Guard. Together, they accounted for 9.4 percent of the U.S. population 18 years and older. Military veterans and service members are well-positioned to be in agriculture, contributing to the development, growth and success of farming, agribusiness, and rural communities. Between 2013 and 2017, military veterans and service members represented 8.6 percent (or 270 thousand) of the 3.1 million persons working or trained in agriculture. Similar to their counterparts with no military experience, they were involved in agriculture across a range of agricultural occupations, industries, and fields of educational attainment. However, military veterans and service members represented a more diverse class of agricultural worker than did those without military service. Military veterans and service members in agriculture (about 46 percent) were more likely to be self-employed in their own business, professional practice, or on a farm—compared to 25 percent of people in agriculture without military service. They were also more likely to be a government employee or to work without pay in a family business or on a farm, whereas the latter were predominantly employees of a business or individual for wages, salaries, or commissions. This chart updates data found in the report Rural Veterans at a Glance.

Poverty rates in 2017 were highest for children, particularly among those living in rural areas

Monday, November 4, 2019

U.S. poverty rates differ by age group. In 2017, the difference between rural and urban poverty rates was greatest for children under the age of 5 (26.0 percent in rural areas versus 19.3 percent in urban areas). Federal poverty thresholds vary by household composition. For a family of two adults and one child, the poverty line in 2017 was an annual income of $19,730. Overall, child poverty rates under age 18 were 22.8 percent in rural areas and 17.7 percent in urban areas. In contrast, the poverty rates for senior adults (age 65 and older) were much closer at 10.1 percent in rural areas and 9.1 percent in urban areas. Working age adults (ages 18–64) followed the pattern of other age-groups, in that they had higher poverty rates in rural areas (16.0 percent) than in urban areas (12.1 percent). Poverty rates do not indicate how long individuals have experienced poverty. Some families cycle into and out of poverty over time, while others are persistently poor. Persistent poverty among children is of particular concern, as the cumulative effects may lead to poor health, limited education, and other negative outcomes. Also, research suggests that the more time a child spends in poverty or living in a high-poverty area, the greater the chance of being poor as an adult. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated March 2019.

ICYMI... Historic Midwest flooding in Spring 2019 severely impacted rural counties in Iowa and Nebraska

Tuesday, September 17, 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. This Chart of Note was originally published April 25, 2019.

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.

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