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 the rural (nonmetropolitan) United States. The labor market measures discussed here include the level of employment, the unemployment rate, and the labor force participation rate. 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.
  • Natural Amenities
    ERS researchers developed a natural amenities scale based on the premise that people are drawn to areas with varied topography; lakes, ponds, or oceanfront; warm, sunny winters; and temperate, low-humidity summers.
  • Population & Migration
    Nonmetro areas in some parts of the country have experienced population loss for decades. Opportunities for population growth and economic expansion, however, vary widely from one nonmetro county to the next, and new regional patterns of growth and decline have emerged in recent years.
  • Rural Classifications
    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.