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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.

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.

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.

The number and value of Value-Added Producer Grants have varied substantially

Friday, August 24, 2018

USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program provides grants intended to help farmers and ranchers add greater value to agricultural commodities, such as through additional processing or marketing of new products. For example, producers could adopt organic practices, turn berries into jam, or process meat into sausage. The number of grants and the amount of grant money obligated under the VAPG program have fluctuated substantially since the program began in 2001. That year, USDA issued 62 VAPGs worth nearly $19.9 million in total funding. In 2015, by comparison, USDA issued 365 grants worth a total of about $44.2 million. Data fluctuated from year to year, largely due to VAPG funds rolling over to the next fiscal year. In many cases, a fiscal year included obligations for two VAPG cycles. Or in the case of 2002 and 2009, there were no obligations due to combining fiscal years for one VAPG cycle. This chart appears in the May 2018 ERS report, USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant Program and Its Effect on Business Survival and Growth.

USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants concentrated in the north-central, western, and northeastern United States

Monday, July 9, 2018

USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program provides grants intended to enable farmers and ranchers to add greater value to agricultural commodities, such as through additional processing or marketing of new products. For example, producers could adopt organic practices, turn berries into jam, or process meat into sausage. Between 2001 and 2015, the program provided a total of 2,345 grants to farmers and ranchers—a total value of $318 million, or about $136,000 per grant, on average. These grants were concentrated mainly in the north-central, western, and northeastern regions of the United States. The north-central States of Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota received a combined 28 percent of all grants. Overall, a little over half of grant recipients were located in rural (nonmetro) counties. Promotion of value-added agriculture has been seen by some researchers and policymakers as a strategy to promote increased rural employment and income. This chart appears in the May 2018 ERS report Impacts of USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants Program on Business Survival and Growth.

Rural economies depend on different industries

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

On May 29, 2018, the Chart of Note article “Rural economies depend on different industries” was reposted to correct the industry classification of a few counties and, in the legend, show the number of rural counties only, instead of all counties.


Rural counties depend on different industries to support their economies. Counties’ employment levels are more sensitive to economic trends that strongly affect their leading industries. For example, trends in agricultural prices have a disproportionate effect on farming-dependent counties, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of all rural counties and 6 percent of the rural population in 2017. Likewise, the boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production that peaked in 2012 increased employment in many mining-dependent rural counties. Meanwhile, the decline in manufacturing employment has particularly affected manufacturing-dependent counties, which accounted for about 18 percent of rural counties and 22 percent of the rural population in 2017. This chart is based on the ERS data product for County Typology Codes, updated May 2017.

A hypothetical increase in U.S. agricultural exports is estimated to add rural jobs across different agri-food sectors

Friday, May 18, 2018

ERS estimates that U.S. agricultural exports, totaling about $135 billion in 2016, supported about 1.1 million full-time, civilian jobs. Using a model of the U.S. economy with a base year of 2013, ERS researchers found that a hypothetical 10-percent increase in foreign demand for U.S. agricultural exports would add about 41,500 jobs, or about a 0.03-percent increase in total U.S. employment. About 42 percent would be in rural areas—where employment in agriculture and food manufacturing would increase by about 18,200 jobs, while employment in other sectors would decrease by nearly 700 jobs as some labor shifts into agriculture. The net effect on employment was positive for 17 of the 20 agri-food sectors in the analysis, with the largest increases in field crops, livestock, and poultry and egg. This reflects the large initial shares of exports and employment in these sectors, relative to other agri-food sectors. Field crops alone accounted for nearly 57 percent of the increase in agri-food rural employment. This chart is based on data that appears in the April 2017 ERS report The Potential Effects of Increased Demand for U.S. Agricultural Exports on Metro and Nonmetro Employment.

Average employment grew more rapidly for Value-Added Producer Grant recipients after receiving the grants

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program provides grants intended to help farmers and ranchers add greater value to agricultural commodities, such as through additional processing or marketing of new products. For example, producers could adopt organic practices, turn berries into jam, or process meat into sausage. Between 2001 and 2015, the program provided a total of 2,345 grants to farmers and ranchers—totaling $318 million, or about $136,000 per grant on average. ERS researchers investigated the effect of the VAPG program on job creation by comparing employment trends pre- and post-grant for VAPG recipients and similar non-recipients. No significant difference in average employment levels was found between the two groups before the grants were received. However, average employment grew more rapidly for VAPG recipients than non-recipients after receipt of the VAPGs. The researchers found that grant recipients employed five to six more workers on average than non-recipients 1 to 5 years after the grant was received. However, given a 95-percent confidence interval, these job growth numbers can vary between about 2 to 10 jobs. At the time of the grants, these businesses employed around 14 employees on average. This chart appears in the May 2018 ERS report Impacts of USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant Program and Its Effect on Business Survival and Growth.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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

Younger adults generally have higher educational attainment than older ones

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

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

Urban areas offer higher earnings for workers with more education

Friday, July 7, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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

Rural education levels are improving, but still lag urban areas

Friday, April 7, 2017

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

Educational attainment rates remain lower for rural minorities

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

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

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

Wednesday, May 18, 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 women, especially young women, are more likely than rural men to have college degrees

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The education of workers is closely linked with economic success. Workers with educations beyond high school degrees are more likely to be employed and earning higher wages than workers with high school degrees or less education. Educational attainment of both men and women in rural areas has grown over time, and rural women are more likely to have some college experience or hold associate or bachelor’s degrees than rural men. For example, the most recent (2014) American Community Survey shows that 63 percent of rural young women (age 25-34) had schooling beyond a high school diploma, compared with less than half (47 percent) of rural young men; nearly a quarter of rural young women held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The gender-education gap beyond a high school diploma for rural young adults has widened, from 11 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2014. This gap is more pronounced in rural areas than in the nation as a whole. This chart is based on the ERS Rural Employment & Education topic page.

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