Publications

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  • The Diverse Social and Economic Structure of Nonmetropolitan America

    RDRR-49, September 18, 1985

    Effective rural development planning depends on facts and analysis based, not on national rural averages, but on the diverse social and economic structure of rural America. Programs tailored to particular types of rural economies may be more effective than a generalized program. This study identifies seven distinct types of rural counties according to their major economic base, presence of federally owned land, or population characteristics: (1) counties depending heavily on farming, (2) counties depending heavily on manufacturing, (3) mining counties with economic based principally on natural resources, (4) counties specializing in government functions, (5) persistent poverty counties, (6) Federal lands counties, and (7) retirement settlements. Because of these unique characteristics, government policies and economic trends may affect these county groups in quite different ways.

  • Racial/Ethnic Minorities in Rural Areas: Progress and Stagnation

    AER-731, August 01, 1996

    Rural minorities lag behind rural Whites and urban minorities on many crucial economic and social measures. This report examines rural Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian and Pacific Islander populations and their economic well-being in the 1980's, an economically difficult decade for rural areas. Results show minimal minority progress as measured by changes in occupation, income, and poverty rates. However, the type and speed of progress was quite different among minority groups and between men and women of the same minority group. Results showed considerable diversity among groups in the characteristics that were associated with poor economic outcomes.

  • Credit in Rural America

    AER-749, April 01, 1997

    In response to a mandate in the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, this report provides information on the major financial institutions and Federal programs active in rural America, the performance of rural financial markets, and the costs and benefits of proposals to expand the lending authority of the Farm Credit System (FCS) and commercial bank access to FCS funds. After examining available data on agricultural, housing, small business, and community development loans, lenders, and programs, this report concludes that rural financial markets work reasonably well in serving the financial needs of these sectors of the rural economy. While localized financial market problems exist in some rural communities, and not all segments of the rural economy are equally well served, financial market failures are neither endemic to nor epidemic in rural America. Therefore, policies which provide untargeted subsidies to a broad range of rural lenders or borrowers such as those examined in this report are unlikely to be cost effective. While the proposals we examined to expand FCS lending authority and bank access to FCS funds would benefit their sponsors and some rural communities, they would do little to address rural credit market imperfections and, at the national level, their associated costs would outweigh their benefits.

  • Rural Economic Development: What Makes Rural Communities Grow?

    AIB-737, October 01, 1997

    Factors related to local and regional economic growth are attractiveness to retirees, right-to-work laws, excellent high school completion rates, good public education expenditures, and access to transportation networks. These were associated with improved county earnings in 1979-89, according to a multiple regression analysis of rural counties. Factors associated with poor earnings growth included higher wage levels, concentrations of transfer-payment recipiency, and concentrations of small independent businesses in the goods-producing sector.

  • Retiree-Attraction Policies for Rural Development

    AIB-741, July 20, 1998

    Many rural communities have benefited from the attraction of retirees in recent years. With the baby boom generation beginning to make retirement decisions, many other rural communities might consider economic development strategies based on attracting and retaining retirees. This report reviews the literature on the impacts (both positive and negative) of retiree attraction in rural areas and indicates which places might benefit most (slow growth or declining population) and least (rapid growth) from retiree attraction. Factors indicating local potential to attract retirees include natural and manmade amenities, proximity to cities and tourism, and past record of attracting retirees. Recent State retiree-attraction initiatives are examined, such as direct State technical assistance and marketing, the use of local self-help models, targeting previous residents, and promoting the development of planned retirement communities.

  • Issues in Rural Manufacturing: Results of the ERS Rural Manufacturing Survey

    AIB-736, October 01, 1998

    About the Survey The ERS Rural Manufacturing Survey is a nationwide study of local factors affecting the ability of manufacturers to compete in today's increasingly international economy. Telephone interviews were conducted with 2,844 rural and 1,065 urban establishments with 10 or more employees. Questions focused on technology adoption, worker skills and training, access to outside expertise, sources of capital for expansion and modernization, and government program participation. The survey is unique in the breadth of its concerns, its focus on local relations, and the size of its rural sample. The survey was designed by ERS with input from representatives of industry and the academic research community. The Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University conducted the actual survey. The overall response rate for the survey was 69 percent. About the Series The survey results are being published in a series of eight-page issue briefs, written under the premise that awareness and understanding of the problems facing manufacturers will improve both public and private decisionmaking. While the reports may be read separately, each builds on the others so that the entire series should provide a comprehensive view of rural manufacturers and their problems and concerns.

  • Rural Competitiveness: Results of the 1996 Rural Manufacturing Survey

    AER-776, March 01, 1999

    Establishments in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan locations are surprisingly similar in their adoption of new technologies, worker skill requirements, use of government programs and technical assistance, exports, and sources of financing, according to the results of a nationwide survey of 3,909 manufacturing businesses. The most widespread concern of both metro and nonmetro businesses appears to be with quality of labor. Quality of local labor is the most frequently cited problem associated with nonmetro business locations. Access to credit, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure is a problem of secondary importance for both metro and nonmetro respondents. Rural communities face a considerable challenge in supplying workers with needed skills. The fastest-growing skill requirements--computer, interpersonal/teamwork, and problem-solving skills--are not central to traditional academic instruction.

  • Highway Investment and Rural Economic Development: An Annotated Bibliography

    BLA-133, April 30, 1999

    This annotated bibliography summarizes studies of the rural economic development implications of highway investment. Primary emphasis is on research dealing with rural areas, but some urban studies are also cited. Topics covered include the aggregate economic effects of highway investment, the effects of highway investment on business location decisions and employment expansion, the effects of highway investment on different industries, local and regional spatial effects of highway investment, and highway effects over time.

  • Green Technologies for a More Sustainable Agriculture

    AIB-752, July 01, 1999

    For U.S. agriculture to continue along a sustainable path of economic development, further production increases must be generated by technologies that are both profitable and more environmentally benign. In this context, we assess the role of these green or sustainable technologies in steering agriculture along a more sustainable path. However, the lack of markets for the environmental attributes associated with green technologies can limit their development. In addition, simply making a technology available does not mean it will be adopted. Experience with green technologies such as conservation tillage, integrated pest management, enhanced nutrient management, and precision agriculture demonstrates that even when technologies are profitable, barriers to adopting new practices can limit their effectiveness.

  • Meeting the Housing Needs of Rural Residents: Results of the 1998 Survey of USDA's Single Family Direct Loan Housing Program

    RDRR-91, December 09, 1999

    USDA's Section 502 Single Family Direct Loan Housing Program provides subsidized housing loans to low- and moderate-income rural residents who do not own adequate housing and cannot obtain a home mortgage from other sources. Typical recent borrowers from the program are under 40, have children, have low or modest incomes, have a home that is better than their previous residence, and are satisfied with their current home, neighborhood, and the Section 502 program. Most believed that, without assistance from the program, they would have been unable to afford a comparable home for at least 2 years and possibly never. These findings are based on a national survey of 3,027 recent Section 502 borrowers, conducted by the Economic Research Service at the request of USDA's Rural Development mission area. The survey identified borrower characteristics and addressed issues of program effectiveness and performance. This report compares the survey's findings with similar information for other low- and moderate-income rural residents and provides a separate analysis of program participation by elderly, single-parent, disabled, Hispanic, and black households.

  • Displaced Workers: Differences in Nonmetro and Metro Experience in the Mid-1990s

    RDRR-92, October 15, 2001

    During 1995-97, 3.4 million workers were displaced from their jobs, of whom 500,000 (15 percent) were nonmetro workers. This report examines the displaced workers' experience in metro and nonmetro areas using survey and administrative data. Although nonmetro workers were less likely to be displaced than metro workers, they had a lower probability of finding employment after losing their jobs. Nonmetro workers were less likely to be covered by legislation providing advance notice of job loss and providing retirement and health insurance benefits after being laid off. A variety of programs are available to assist displaced workers in nonmetro areas.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-Reforming Welfare: What Does It Mean for Rural Areas?

    FANRR-26-4, June 03, 2002

    The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act dramatically altered the social safety net for poor Americans, including the 7 million people living in poverty in nonmetro areas. This issue brief examines evidence from recent research about rural-urban differences in welfare reform impacts on program participation, employment, earnings, and poverty and assesses how well welfare reform is working in rural areas.

  • Effects of North American Free Trade Agreement on Agriculture and the Rural Economy

    WRS-0201, July 30, 2002

    This report assesses the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on U.S. agriculture and trade. It also contains sections on investment, employment, the environment, and transportation, as well as detailed commodity assessments of the impact of NAFTA on trade.

  • Rural America at a Glance

    RDRR-94-1, September 13, 2002

    Rural America At A Glance is a six-page brochure that highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas. This brochure is the first in a series of reports that uses current social and economic data, along with recently released information from the 2000 census, to highlight important population, labor market, income, and poverty trends in rural areas. The format of the report incorporates text bullets with charts and maps to make the report easy-to-read and visually interesting. This brochure provides information on key rural conditions and trends for use by public and private decisionmakers and others in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people and their communities.

  • Wage Premiums for On-the-Job Computer Use: A Metro and Nonmetro Analysis

    RDRR-95, December 30, 2002

    An analysis of on-the-job computer use shows that such use is more common in metro areas than in nonmetro areas. A substantial wage premium, 10 to 11 percent, is associated with using a computer on the job, even after other job and worker characteristics are taken into account. However, this wage premium accounts for only a small proportion of the wage differences between metro and nonmetro areas. In nonmetro areas, the computer use wage premium is only about 6 percent.

  • Rural America, Vol. 17, Issue 4

    RA-174, January 14, 2003

    This issue discusses a number of topics concerning rural America, including rural population loss and migration, recreation counties and their rapid growth, U.S.-China trade, federal funding in rural America, rural land ownership, rural infrastructure, and rural employment growth. Updates on rural conditions and trends include data on migration, rural poverty, and jobs and earnings.

  • Rural America: Opportunities and Challenges

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    At the beginning of the 21st century, some rural areas have shared in the economic progress of the Nation, while others have not. The opportunities and challenges facing rural America are as varied as rural America itself.

  • Comparisons of Metropolitan-Nonmetropolitan Poverty During the 1990's

    RDRR-96, June 25, 2003

    While the greater incidence of poverty in nonmetro relative to metro areas is well documented, there is little research as to whether it is deeper or more severe in nonmetro areas. This report examines metro-nonmetro differences in U.S. poverty rates, using data from Current Population Surveys (1991-2000) and poverty measures that are sensitive to income distribution. The standard practice of examining only the headcount, or incidence, of poverty provides the expected result that poverty is greater in nonmetro areas in all 10 years of the 1990s. The poverty gap index, which measures the depth of poverty, indicates that the difference in this measure of poverty is statistically significant in 6 of the 10 years. When the squared poverty gap index, a measure of severity, is examined, the estimate of nonmetro poverty is greater than the metro measure in only 3 of the 10 years.

  • Exploring the Diversity of Rural America Through Interactive Mapping

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2003

    The Rural Indicators Map Machine, an Internet-based mapping program on the ERS website, makes it easier to visual the geographic distribution of economic and social conditions across America. Maps generated through the program reveal overall population change, population change by race and ethnicity, unemployment rates, and median household incomes across user-specified geographic levels (national, State, and county) and ERS classification schemes.

  • Rural America at a Glance (2003)

    RDRR-97-1, September 02, 2003

    Rural America At A Glance is a six-page brochure that highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas. This brochure is the second in a series of reports that uses current social and economic data to highlight important population, labor market, income, and poverty trends in rural areas. The new metropolitan/nonmetropolitan classification is also discussed. The format of the report incorporates text bullets with charts and maps to make the report easy-to-read and visually interesting. This brochure provides information on key rural conditions and trends for use by public and private decisionmakers and others in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people and their communities.