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Rural Communities

Communities comprised of a group of inhabitants who live a rustic or country lifestyle, generally having smaller populations and in an agricultural setting

Rural Communities

Rural communities in the US often face stereotypes. Assumptions are made that they’re backwards or declining parts of society. It means that clear communication and understanding between urban, suburban and rural groups is challenging. From a political standpoint, it’s crucial to develop policies that bridge the gaps and take into account different communities.

Populations in rural areas are decreasing. A reduction of voting power in these communities follows, compounding several issues. Let’s take a look at the problems rural communities face and how they can be taken into consideration.

What Are Rural Communities?

Around one-fifth of Americans live in rural communities. These areas are often termed nonmetropolitan counties. Even the definitions have limitations as many areas that are not cities might fall into the category. In many cases, more specific wording is useful to help identify the different groups.

Based on official definitions, nonmetropolitan counties account for a significant proportion of gross domestic product. These areas often cover most of the country’s natural resources. For these reasons, protecting and looking after them is for the benefit of all.

Although collectively populous, these communities are spread out across the country. As a result, the population of these counties is much smaller in comparison to nearby cities. The difference in size can lead to decreases in political representation. Larger areas are awarded more representatives when districts are drawn.

Challenges Faced in Rural Communities

Changes in industries have meant that economic growth has slowed in some rural communities in the US. In some cases, investment has arrived to stimulated growth. However, it often changes the types of businesses in the counties. As a consequence a skills gap becomes apparent and identities feel threatened.

At the same time, the needs of the population have shifted. Accessing public services in remote areas has become more challenging, leading to some communities being hit harder by national crises.

Since each community has access to different natural resources and employment, the challenges in each area are varied. Just as policies for cities might not work there, a one-size-fits-all solution for rural communities is unlikely to be beneficial for everyone.

Identity and Representation

Rural communities are not homogenous. Policymakers need to understand the diverse nature of the communities before finding and applying solutions. The issues of poverty, employment difficulties and accessing services are individual to each area.

One of the crucial ways to create understanding is through representation. It could come in several forms, such as more or guaranteed seats at the table. Ensuring that people from those communities are part of the political process would help. It could be as voters, lawmakers, and in other capacities. A review of how to keep politics and representation proportional could also help.

Inclusive policies that take marginalised groups into consideration could provide more tailored solutions. The responsibility is on politicians and policymakers to be able to balance priorities. It’s critical to ensure that urgent national matters don’t overshadow the equally critical issues in each rural community.

Assumptions and Routes Forward

One particular barrier to a balanced discussion of rural communities are the assumptions that they’re predominantly white, conservative and poor. The truth is that the situation is much more nuanced. Whether lawmakers choose one way that will benefit all or find specific answers to challenges depending on the area, it’s clear that solutions are needed.

Sources:

https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/102576/eib-230.pdf?v=4409

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2021/08/10/shrinking-rural-america-faces-state-power-struggle

https://www.brookings.edu/events/reshaping-the-economic-narrative-around-americas-rural-communities/

https://www.americanprogress.org/article/redefining-rural-america/

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