Rural America, home to one in seven Americans, “is growing again after a decade of overall population loss” and is now home to 46 million people, said the USDA’s “Rural America at a Glance” report on Wednesday. Rural employment has recovered from the job losses of the pandemic, and 1 percent of rural workers hold clean energy jobs, about the same number as are employed in fossil fuels.
Household income edged downward in rural America in 2022, but the poverty rate held steady at 15 percent, said the Census Bureau on Tuesday. Median household income in rural America was more than $21,000 lower than in metropolitan areas, helping to explain why rural poverty rates are higher than the U.S. average.
Food stamps had a greater effect in reducing poverty rates in rural America than in urban areas when viewed through the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure, said an American Enterprise Institute newsletter. Northwestern University professor Diane Schanzenbach calculated that SNAP lowered the poverty rate in rural areas by 1.4 percentage points compared to a 0.8 point reduction in urban America.
Throughout the pandemic, the highest Covid-19 case rates and the lowest vaccination rates in the country have been found in persistently poor rural counties, the USDA said Wednesday in its annual Rural America at a Glance report. Those counties have also had low unemployment rates, suggesting residents continued to work despite the risk of infection by the coronavirus, said the report.
Stymied by lawsuits that contend USDA debt relief for farmers of color is actually reverse discrimination, House Democrats proposed an alternative: full or partial forgiveness of USDA loans to limited-resource farmers. The multi-billion-dollar proposal, which does not mention race, is directed toward economically distressed farmers and ranchers in high-poverty areas.
Nearly 6 million people in rural America had incomes below the poverty line during the pandemic year of 2020, an increase of 315,000 from the preceding year, according to a Census Bureau estimate released on Tuesday. The annual Income and Poverty report indicated that one in seven rural residents lived in poverty, compared to the national average of one in nine.
The rural poverty rate has exceeded the urban rate ever since the government began tracking both in the 1960s. The difference, 4.5 percentage points in the 1980s, has narrowed to an average of 3.1 points over the past 10 years, said the USDA in updating its rural poverty and well-being webpage.
The poverty gap between rural and metropolitan areas was just as wide in 2019 as the year before, said the Census Bureau on Tuesday. Poverty rates declined across the board last year, but analysts said the pandemic has made the improvements meaningless with the country now in a deep recession.
For decades, the poverty rate has been higher in rural America than in metropolitan areas, a situation often attributed to an older, lower-paid, and less-educated rural population. A new USDA report says the gap between rural and urban areas widened, to 3.5 percentage points, during the economic recovery that began a decade ago.
Nationwide, women are having fewer children and waiting longer to have them than a decade ago. But one pattern is unchanged: rural women, on average, are younger when they give birth and have more children than women living in metropolitan areas, says the CDC. Indeed, the gap between urban and rural fertility rates has widened even as overall fertility rates — the expected number of births per 1,000 women — have declined.
Rural incomes are up and the rural poverty rate is down, dropping twice as fast as the U.S. average, said the Census Bureau on Wednesday in its annual report on income and poverty.
One-third of rural counties have a poverty rate above 20 percent, a dramatic increase since 2000 that is unlikely to cured by the slow, post-recession economic recovery, says a report by the Carsey School of Public Policy. "The consistent increases in poverty rates in rural counties suggest that rural areas are facing a longer-term decline in economic conditions."
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved unanimously a USDA-FDA funding bill that rejected President Trump's proposals to slash spending on rural development, crop insurance and food stamps. And in the first major congressional disagreement with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the $145 billion funding bill overrode his recent elimination of the slot for an undersecretary in charge of rural economic development — and directed the administration to fill the job.
Congress would shear $6 billion from food stamps and the Women and Infants (WIC) food program along with eliminating two overseas food-aid programs, according to data leaked to the think tank Third Way. Proposals to cut farm subsidies and federally subsidized crop insurance in fiscal 2018 also are expected in the Trump administration budget to be released on Tuesday.
Hunger experts at an FAO meeting in Rome said that if women farmers had the same access as men to land, tools, and credit, crop yields would rise by at least a third and there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world, Reuters reports.
A report from the Carsey Institute says immigrants are just as likely to hold a job as native-born Americans in rural areas but twice as likely to be part of the working poor, reports the Daily Yonder. Nearly one in six rural immigrants don't earn enough money for their household income to top the federal poverty level.
At Berea College in eastern Kentucky, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 26 community development organizations will be able to draw on $401 million in funding to reduce rural poverty through building or improving essential facilities and services such as education and health care.
The U.S. poverty rate fell to 13.5 percent, down by 1.2 points from the previous year and the largest one-year decline since 1968, says the Census Bureau. But in rural areas, there was no significant change, with 16.7 percent of rural Americans living in poverty.
The child-poverty rate in rural America was 26.7 percent in 2012, the highest rate in more than four decades, according to Census Bureau data. An analysis by the USDA's Economic Research Service says income inequality was the primary reason for the increase, far outweighing the effect of the overall decline in rural family income due to the recession of 2007-09.