Place-Based Initiatives and Economic Mobility in Rural Areas
Much research on the effects of concentrated poverty and residential segregation has focused on urban areas and issues. Similarly, discussions of economic mobility from poverty often focus on urban geographies and use urban assumptions that may not be true for rural communities. Rural communities experience different types of place-based effects on poverty, and rural poverty has often been forgotten and hidden behind a myth of an idyllic agrarian past. But compared with metropolitan areas, rural areas have a higher prevalence of persistent poverty, where 20 percent of the population has been living at or below the federal poverty level for three consecutive decades. In 2010, 85 percent of the 429 persistently poor counties in the US were rural. At the same time, some rural communities have seen growing inequality between low-wage service workers and wealthier retirees and tourists who drive up local costs of housing and services.
Several place-based initiatives to build rural opportunity have been launched in recent years, but they have not yet been fully evaluated. There is also no comprehensive research on what a move to rural opportunity areas looks like for poor households. This knowledge gap is significant, given the high rates of residential instability among rural people in poverty and the well-documented out-migration of more educated and skilled individuals from rural areas. We have learned some lessons about creating economic mobility in rural places, but additional research is necessary to understand how to create and implement pathways from rural poverty.