Rural America

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Rural country road in Marshall County, Indiana.

The United States has many rural areas. Seventy-two percent of United States' land area belongs to rural counties, but in 2014, just 46.2 million Americans (roughly 15% of the population of the country at the time) lived in these areas.[1][2]

Population, demographic patterns, and economy[edit]

The rural population of the United States has declined from 2010-2014 by about 30,000 people per year, the first period of overall population decline for rural America.[1] By contrast, the urban population in the 2010s has grown by more than two million annually.[1]

Over the 2010-2014 time period, some 1,300 rural counties lost population, mostly in areas dependent on farming, manufacturing, or resource extraction.[1] Of the 700 rural counties growing in population, most are "in scenic areas such as the Rocky Mountains or southern Appalachia, or in energy boom regions such as in the northern Great Plains."[1]

The rural poverty rate for U.S. rural counties as of 2014 is 18.1%, compared to an urban poverty rate to 15.1%. Rural poverty is highest among racial and ethnic minorities.[1] As of 2016, about 7 percent of homeless people in the United States live in rural areas, although some believe that this is an underestimate.[3]


Rural America was the center of the Populist movement of the 1890s.[4]


There are significant health disparities between urban and rural United States. The per capita rate of primary care physicians is lower in rural areas of the country (65 primary care physicians per 100,000 rural Americans, compared to 105 primary care physicians for urban and suburban Americans).[5] Rural Americans are also more likely than other Americans to suffer from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.[5]

A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in 2015 analyzed data on U.S. youth suicide rates from 1996 to 2010. It found that the rates of suicides for rural Americans age 10 to 24 was almost double the rate compared to their urban counterparts. This was attributed to social isolation, greater availability of guns, and difficulty accessing healthcare.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Economic Information Bulletin 145, Rural America At a Glance (2015 ed.), Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture (revised January 2016).
  2. ^ Kristin Miller, Is rural America a thing of the past?, PBS News Newshour (March 23, 2014).
  3. ^ Miles Bryan, In Rural America, Homeless Population May Be Bigger Than You Think, NPR All Things Considered (February 18, 2016).
  4. ^ Michael Kazin, Populism and Agrarian Discontent, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
  5. ^ a b Molly O'Toole, Healthcare access lagging in rural U.S.: report, Reuters (July 27, 2011).
  6. ^ Julie Beck, The Growing Risk of Suicide in Rural America, The Atlantic (March 10, 2015).

Further reading[edit]

  • Cynthia M. Duncan, Worlds Apart: Poverty and Politics in Rural America (2d ed.: Yale University Press, 2014).

External links[edit]