ERS Charts of Note
Get the latest charts via email, or on our mobile app for and
Monday, August 1, 2022
Self-employed workers were more than twice as likely to lack health insurance compared with those employed by private firms or government in 2018, regardless of whether they lived in metropolitan or nonmetropolitan counties. Self-employed working-age adults (ages 26–64) with health insurance were covered more widely across sources. Like those employed by private firms and government, they were insured through employer-based group health insurance plans more than any other source. (Many of these individuals could be receiving coverage through another household member’s employer-based plan.) Even so, a much smaller share of self-employed workers was covered by employer-based plans than those employed by private firms or government (50.5 percent versus 82.4 percent, respectively, in nonmetro counties). Instead, self-employed working-age adults were insured through direct-purchase health insurance plans at more than three times the rate of those employed by private firms or government. Similarly, public health insurance (e.g., Medicaid, Medicare) rates for self-employed working-age adults were nearly twice that of those employed by private firms or government. A version of this chart appears in the ERS publication Health Care Access Among Self-Employed Workers in Nonmetropolitan Counties published May 2022.
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
As the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic deepened in 2020, a greater share of employed people reported lacking health insurance coverage, regardless of residential location or whether they were self-employed. Self-employed workers were already more often uninsured than those employed by private industry or government, and the gap persisted through the end of 2020. Self-employed workers started the pandemic with uninsured rates of between 24 percent and 28 percent, and these rates remained relatively stable through July 21, 2020. Thereafter, the percentage of uninsured individuals increased, and between August 19 and December 21, 2020, around 33 to 34 percent of self-employed workers were uninsured. The rates of uninsured individuals among other workers followed the same trend, with rates of 15 to 16 percent at the beginning of the pandemic increasing to around 27 percent by the end of 2020. The increases correspond both to a decrease in health insurance coverage through employer-based plans as job losses grew and to slight declines in coverage through direct-purchase plans among the self-employed. This chart appears in the ERS publication report Health Care Access Among Self-Employed Workers in Nonmetropolitan Counties, published May 2022.
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Self-employed workers are individuals who work for themselves and have not incorporated their businesses. A higher proportion of nonmetropolitan workers are self-employed than metropolitan workers, according to a recent study by the USDA, Economic Research Service. ERS researchers used workforce data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ 2014–18 American Community Survey (ACS) to classify counties by the percentage of self-employed workers. Counties with a share of self-employed workers in the top 25 percent were considered to have a high level of self-employment. In these counties, 9.1 percent to 36.7 percent of workers were self-employed. High self-employment counties were primarily nonmetropolitan (702 counties versus 84 metropolitan counties). They were largely clustered throughout the Great Plains and upper Mountain West. This figure appears in the ERS publication Health Care Access Among Self-Employed Workers in Nonmetropolitan Counties, published May 2022.
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.”
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.
Monday, February 25, 2019
Rural parents often face challenges—such as a lack of jobs, physical isolation, and limited transportation choices—that may put their children at risk of being poor. That risk is greatest among single-parent families, particularly those headed by a female. Research shows that among family types, single parents are less likely to have an education beyond high school and are more likely to be without employment or to work in a job that is not secure or does not pay a living wage. In 2016, rural female-headed families with no spouse present made up 26 percent of all rural families with children and 60 percent of all rural families with children that were poor. The poverty rate for rural female-headed families was 46 percent, compared with about 23 percent for rural male-headed (no spouse) families and 9 percent for rural married-couple families with children. These rates were nearly unchanged from 2007, indicating the persistently high likelihood of remaining in poverty for rural children in single-parent families. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the source of this data, does not include sufficient information to explore the economic status of households headed by unmarried partners, which other ERS research has shown to be important for the study of rural child poverty. This chart appears in the July 2018 Amber Waves data feature, "Child Poverty Heavily Concentrated in Rural Mississippi, Even More So Than Before the Great Recession.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Innovation—the introduction of new products or ways of doing business that consumers value—is widely regarded as an essential component of resilient local economies. Using a comprehensive measure of innovation, ERS researchers found a higher prevalence of substantive innovators in urban (metro) areas. Over 31 percent of urban establishments (100 employees or more) were classified as substantive innovators, compared with nearly 23 percent of rural (nonmetro) establishments. This gap may reflect the potential innovation advantages stemming from denser business and consumer networks in urban areas. Researchers also examined the substantive innovation rates of single-unit firms to determine whether substantive innovation in rural areas was truly a rural phenomenon—not just innovation strategies of national or multi-national firms with rural production locations. About 20 percent of single-unit firms in rural areas were classified as substantive innovators, compared to nearly 23 percent overall, confirming that some wholly rural firms are pursuing more far-ranging innovation. This chart appears in the ERS report, Innovation in the Rural Nonfarm Economy: Its Effect on Job and Earnings Growth, 2010-2014, released September 2017.
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.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Innovation—the introduction of new products or ways of doing business that consumers value—is widely regarded as an essential component of resilient local economies. Using a comprehensive measure of innovation, ERS research found 23 percent of rural establishments (with five or more employees) and 31 percent of urban establishments to be substantive innovators. Findings also suggest that substantive innovation in rural establishments in some industries are similar (not statistically different) to their urban peers. The similarity in innovation rates across manufacturing industries is particularly striking given presumed advantages of deeper supplier, customer, and information networks in urban areas. However, urban innovation advantages appear in the Services sector, which includes tradable industries such as wholesale trade, information, and financial services. This may reflect differences in the level of competition facing tradable services in rural and urban areas. This chart appears in the October 2017 Amber Waves finding, "Grassroots Innovation Widespread in Rural Areas, and Concentrated in Manufacturing."
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.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Internet service providers have been increasing access to broadband in rural areas by expanding DSL and cable technologies, wireless platforms, satellite systems, and (to a lesser extent) fiber-optic systems. Despite a slower growth rate in broadband subscriptions since 2010 compared with the previous decade, county-level data indicate that rural household connectivity continues to improve and expand geographically. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of rural counties in which wired broadband subscriptions exceeded the rural average (60 percent or more of households) increased from 281 to nearly 1,200. Rural counties newly above the 60-percent threshold for broadband are concentrated in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and the Intermountain West. Extensive parts of rural Appalachia also saw improvement in broadband access to above 60 percent. Broadband service remains more limited in two types of rural regions: (1) isolated, sparsely settled counties in the Great Plains, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, and elsewhere; and (2) high-poverty, high-minority regions, such as on tribal lands in the West and stretching from southern Virginia to east Texas in the South. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2017 Edition, released November 2017.
Friday, October 6, 2017
The number of U.S. manufacturing plants is declining, and plant startups and shutdowns are at their lowest since records began in 1977. Using a nationally representative sample of manufacturing plants, recent ERS research found that over half of plants survived (still had paid employees) between 1996 and 2011. Rural plants were slightly more likely to survive than those in urban counties: 57 percent versus 53 percent. Independent plants—single-unit manufacturing plants or firms with only one physical location—were more likely to survive than multi-unit plants. In rural counties, independent plants had an average survival rate of 62 percent, while multi-unit plants had a survival rate of 50 percent. Survival rates varied some by subsector, but rural textile mills and apparel product manufacturers had significantly lower survival rates (26 percent) than the average for all rural manufacturers (57 percent). This chart appears in the October 2017 Amber Waves feature, "Rural Manufacturing Survival and Its Role in the Rural Economy."
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Innovation is widely regarded as an essential component of resilient local economies. Using a comprehensive measure of innovation, ERS research found that some establishments in the rural (nonmetro) nonfarm economy are as likely to be innovative as their urban (metro) peers. About half of large rural and urban establishments (100 employees or more) were found to be substantive innovators. Among all establishments in manufacturing and service-providing industries characterized by high rates of patenting, the percentage of substantive innovators in rural and urban areas were also similar. However, an urban innovation advantage was evident for small (5-19 employees) and medium (20-99 employees) establishments. For example, the research found about 29 percent of medium-sized rural establishments to be substantive innovators, compared to 41 percent of their urban peers. This chart appears in the ERS report, Innovation in the Rural Nonfarm Economy: Its Effect on Job and Earnings Growth, 2010-2014, released September 2017.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Manufacturing provides more jobs in rural America than many other sectors. In 2015, rural manufacturing jobs totaled 2.5 million, compared to 1.4 million farm jobs. Rural manufacturing jobs were also about equal to rural retail jobs, almost double rural construction jobs, and five times rural mining (including oil and gas extraction) jobs. However, U.S. manufacturing employment has been declining since the 1950s. Between 2001 and 2015—a period that included the recessions of 2001 and 2007-09—manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. In addition, 71 percent of U.S. counties experienced a decline in manufacturing employment. Counties with the largest relative declines were concentrated in the Eastern United States, the traditional hub of U.S. manufacturing. In 2015, almost 20 percent of manufacturing jobs were located in rural counties. Factors such as globalization and rapid changes in technology have contributed to the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural Manufacturing at a Glance, released August 2017.
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.