Rural Economy & Population
Business & Industry
While agriculture, forestry, and mining remain important sectors in some rural areas, service and retail industries have accounted for most job growth in rural America over the past few decades. ERS research on rural business and industry focuses on industrial trends that shape the job opportunities available to the rural labor force.
Employment & Education
ERS research in this area focuses on labor market conditions and educational attainment in rural (nonmetropolitan) America. Indicators of labor market conditions include the unemployment rate, employment growth, and earnings levels. Educational attainment is closely linked to labor market outcomes. While rural areas are closing the gap with urban areas in high school completion, there is a large and growing gap in college and postgraduate educational attainment, even among young adults.
ERS has developed a program of research showing how landscape and climate have been shaping the geography of rural growth and decline.
Population & Migration
Nonmetro areas in some parts of the country have experienced population loss for decades. However, 2010-16 marks the first period with an estimated population loss for nonmetro America as a whole. The number of people living in nonmetro counties increased by 33,000 between July 2016 and July 2017, ending 6 years of modest population losses. However, opportunities for population growth and economic expansion vary widely from one nonmetro county to the next, and new regional patterns of growth and decline have emerged in recent years.
ERS maintains key county classifications that measure rurality and assess the economic and social diversity of rural America beyond the metro/nonmetro dichotomy. The Rural-Urban Continuum Codes and Urban Influence Codes are part of a suite of data products for rural analysis available in this topic.
Rural Poverty & Well-being
ERS research in this topic area focuses on the economic, social, spatial, temporal, and demographic factors that affect the poverty status of rural residents.