Rural Nerds: A Classic #tbt from our Top 10 Countdown

Jon Bailey is something of a legend at the Center for Rural Affairs when it comes to research. He may have written his best words in this report.

It put the spotlight directly on poverty in a neglected part of the country - right here in the nation's bread basket. Here's number three in our #tbt countdown from the Top 10 Rural Research Reports.

#3 Trampled Dreams: The Neglected Economy of the Rural Great Plains

by Dr. Patricia Funk and Jon M. Bailey, 2000

Trampled Dreams was the second in what became a series of reports documenting Census data for the rural Great Plains. The report compared the socio-economic conditions of agriculturally-based counties with other urban and metropolitan counties in the region.

It reviewed data from 1989 to 1997, and focused on a six-state region (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota).

The data and findings of Trampled Dreams are important because they shined a light on rural poverty and socio-economic conditions in a neglected part of the nation. For one of the first times, data and policy analysis focused on the general economy of small, rural communities of the Great Plains in general, and not solely the agricultural economy.

Key Findings

  • The percentage of people living in poverty in the smallest, most rural counties of the region was more than 50% greater than in metropolitan counties.
  • While the region as a whole gained population, agriculturally-based counties lost population.
  • Poverty in rural areas of the region was not found in isolated pockets. Instead, it represented the tail end of a large group of low-income households. Nearly 40% of households in the rural counties of the region had annual incomes of less than $15,000, nearly twice the rate in metropolitan counties.
  • Earnings in rural counties of the region were persistently low.
  • Rural areas of the region were extraordinarily entrepreneurial.

Download Trampled Dreams: The Neglected Economy of the Rural Great Plains.