Rural Areas

The gap between rural and urban poverty has diminished significantly since the mid-20th century, but rural poverty remains persistent. Today 17 percent of the rural population, including one in four children, are poor. Persistent rural poverty is concentrated in the Southern United States, and black Americans living in non-metro areas experience the highest rates of poverty. As industries like mining and manufacturing wane, rural areas have experienced a decline in job opportunities. In 1980, 70 percent of Americans living in rural poverty were working, but today, less than half are. Persistently high child poverty is more common in rural areas than in urban areas. As rural children grow up, they face the choice to stay in areas with limited opportunities or move away, which leads to a “brain drain” of educated young workers and further depletes the economy. Rural poverty poses a unique challenge as opportunities and resources are sparse, enabling a cycle of poverty. This section of the Spotlight website gathers the latest research, news and opinion on rural poverty.