Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Rural and Small Town America

Rural and Small Town America

Glenn V. Fuguitt
David L. Brown
Calvin L. Beale
Max J. Pfeffer
Robert M. Jenkins
Daniel T. Lichter
Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 504
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Rural and Small Town America
    Book Description:

    Important differences persist between rural and urban America, despite profound economic changes and the notorious homogenizing influence of the media. As Glenn V. Fuguitt, David L. Brown, and Calvin L. Beale show inRural and Small Town America, the much-heralded disappearance of small town life has not come to pass, and the nonmetropolitan population still constitutes a significant dimension of our nation's social structure.

    Based on census and other recent survey data, this impressive study provides a detailed and comparative picture of rural America. The authors find that size of place is a critical demographic factor, affecting population composition (rural populations are older and more predominantly male than urban populations), the distribution of poverty (urban poverty tends to be concentrated in neighborhoods; rural poverty may extend over large blocks of counties), and employment opportunities (job quality and income are lower in rural areas, though rural occupational patterns are converging with those of urban areas). In general, rural and small town America still lags behind urban America on many indicators of social well-being. Pointing out that rural life is no longer synonymous with farming, the authors explore variations among nonmetropolitan populations. They also trace the impact of major national trends-the nonmetropolitan growth spurt of the 1970s and its current reversal, for example, or changing fertility rates-on rural life and on the relationship between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan communities.

    By describing the special characteristics and needs of rural populations as well as the features they share with urban America, this book clearly demonstrates that a more accurate picture of nonmetropolitan life is essential to understanding the larger dynamics of our society.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-232-9
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Charles F. Westoff

    Rural and Small Town Americais one of an ambitious series of volumes aimed at converting the vast statistical yield of the 1980 census into authoritative analyses of major changes and trends in American life. This series, “The Population of the United States in the 1980s,” represents an important episode in social science research and revives a long tradition of independent census analysis. First in 1930, and then again in 1950 and 1960, teams of social scientists worked with the U.S. Bureau of the Census to investigate significant social, economic, and demographic developments revealed by the decennial censuses. These census...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  5. List of Figures
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Throughout history most of the world has been rural, with the major portion of the population residing in low density settings and dependent on agriculture or other extractive activities for a livelihood. This was also the case in the United States until early in the twentieth century, but it is now commonplace to refer to our nation as an urban and metropolitan society. It is in this context, and indeed because we are predominantly urban and metropolitan, that it is necessary to understand rural America today, and to try to discern some of the future directions for this part of...

    (pp. 13-62)

    Rural and small town America is an integral part of the highly urban and metropolitan society that is the United States today. To a large degree its place in this society is a consequence of the twin dynamic processes of urbanization and metropolitanization, along with interregional shifts in population and economic activities. We begin the present chapter with a consideration of long-term trends in rural and nonmetropolitan population change. We then take a closer look at the past twenty-five years, the period that included the “turnaround,” when nonmetropolitan areas were growing more rapidly than metropolitan areas, and the post-turnaround period...

    (pp. 63-104)

    For many decades urban growth in the United States has been accompanied by the spread of population settlement. In his international study of the growth of cities in the nineteenth century, Weber noted this movement in the United States and other countries.¹ With the coming of the automobile population deconcentration around large cities increased in relative importance as settlements spread widely into formerly rural areas. The prevalence of this growth led to the adoption of the metropolitan area as a unit of demographic and economic analysis beginning in 1950, as discussed in Chapters 1 and 2. By means of this...

    (pp. 105-138)

    The age-sex composition of a population shapes community needs and demands for goods, services, and economic opportunities, as well as patterns of consumption, life-style, and social behavior. It is through changes in age–sex composition that demand shifts associated with population growth or decline are most clearly articulated. The age–sex composition of a community imposes requirements and limitations on each of its institutions. This is true in both urban and rural areas, but adaptation to changes in age–sex composition are especially difficult in rural areas where small size, geographic isolation, sparse settlement, or some combination of these factors...

    (pp. 139-156)

    The racial and ethnic composition of rural and small town America has never been an exact replica of urban America, but the nature of the differences between them has gradually changed. The tenor and origin of most of the Eastern seaboard settlements were English, but well before the Revolutionary period there was a leavening of other people. Some were other British, such as the Welsh or Scotch–Irish who came in through Philadelphia. Others had settled independently before the British had extended their hegemony, such as the Dutch of New York or the Swedes in the lower Delaware Valley. French...

    (pp. 157-184)

    The structure of American society has undergone rapid and pervasive change during the last quarter-century, and few institutions have changed more than the family. Age at first marriage has increased, the number of children couples have reached an all-time low in the 1970s and persists today at a low (by historical standards) level, the average number of persons who live together has declined, single parent households—especially those maintained by women—are increasingly common, couples not married to each other sharing a household are twice as common as in the 1970s, and it has been estimated that almost one-half of...

    (pp. 185-228)

    Rural people have and always have had more children than urban people. This is one of the oldest, most basic, and valid premises of fertility analysis. Benjamin Franklin noted the pattern in the American colonies in 1751, and Wilson Grabill and associates demonstrated it using the census of 1800, where they showed that the ratio of children to women of childbearing age was more than 50 percent higher in the rural population than in urban places.¹ In many subsequent periods the relative difference was even wider.

    The major explanations offered for higher rural fertility in modern times have been the...

    (pp. 229-262)

    The changing structure of the American economy, particularly its industrial composition, has reshaped the types of job opportunities and their availability in local economies throughout the nation. In this chapter we focus on making a living in rural and nonmetropolitan America; labor force participation, employment, and unemployment are analyzed. Briefly, we show how rural and nonmetropolitan areas have reflected the major national direction of change in labor force participation and how profoundly national industrial transformations have altered the stability of nonmetropolitan employment and have left rural labor markets increasingly vulnerable to cyclical trends, technological changes, and macroeconomic policies. This focus...

    (pp. 263-302)

    The industrial structure of the United States economy has changed dramatically during recent decades as traditional agricultural and manufacturing pursuits have declined in importance and service industries have grown rapidly. Despite similarities, this industrial restructuring has proceeded differently in nonmetropolitan and rural areas than in more urbanized parts of the county. The nonmetropolitan economies have characteristically been more dependent on natural resource-based industries, have had more human and capital resource constraints, and are generally smaller and more geographically isolated. Changes in the spatial distribution of economic activity over the past few decades have led to a convergence between metropolitan and...

    (pp. 303-336)

    Many persons associated with farming today do not actually live on farms, and farm residents are an increasingly diverse group, including a sizable number who have little attachment to farming as an economic or occupational activity. Although farming activities concern only a small and declining number and proportion of the total population, agriculture continues to be one of the major industries of the nation. Consequently, it is important to give attention to farm-related households and individuals, but this can no longer be accomplished by simply distinguishing people who live on farms as a separate residential category.¹

    After a review of...

    (pp. 337-382)

    Wealth and poverty coexist in both urban and rural settings. The same characteristics associated with inadequate income in urban areas also predict low income in rural areas, such as low education, lack of a male wage earner in the family, or black, Indian, or Hispanic minority group status. But, average income levels are different for urban and rural people, as are the family composition and work patterns that influence the adequacy of income. Moreover, although urban poverty is usually concentrated in neighborhoods of cities or in individual communities within a metropolitan complex, high rural poverty rates are often endemic enough...

    (pp. 383-424)

    In our examination of rural and small town America, primary emphasis has been on population redistribution and the comparison of various social and economic characteristics across metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, and between rural and urban residence categories. We extended this set of distinctions in Chapter 3 to consider a size-of-place classification for the study of population redistribution. In the present chapter we again use such a grouping to examine differentials in characteristics of the population living in cities, small towns, and rural areas.

    The purpose of such an extension is not just to complete an analysis scheme, although in a...

    (pp. 425-438)

    During the latter half of the twentieth century, the American population has undergone gradual but profound changes in demographic composition, socioeconomic attributes, and residential distribution. These changes have been pervasive, affecting people in rural and small town settings as well as those who live in more highly urbanized and densely settled locales. Nevertheless, residential differences persist in the 1980s, structuring the lives people live and the opportunities available to them.

    We have shown that rural and nonmetropolitan areas figured importantly in the recent deconcentration of the American population, but we have also shown that population distribution trends affecting rural and...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 439-450)
  20. Name Index
    (pp. 451-454)
  21. Subject Index
    (pp. 455-471)