Title: The changing populations and economic fortunes of small places in the United States
Speaker: Dr Dylan Connor, School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning, Arizona State University
The talks will be held virtually this semester via Microsoft Teams. Link to join the meeting is given below. All are welcome.
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The growing importance of urban areas in the economic geography of the United States has led to concerns that rural dwellers are facing newfound hardship. According to this dominant view, once prosperous rural communities have struggled to gain a foothold in an economy that increasingly favors the large coastal cities at the core of today’s leading economic sectors. Distressed communities are cited as evidence of the demise of rural America and as an explanation for the rejuvenation of rural conservative politics. But is this an accurate reflection of the changes unfolding across rural places? We argue that the narrative of rural impoverishment certainly holds for many rural places, but is a poor fit for others. We establish this fact by developing and applying cutting-edge methods in spatial demography and sequence analysis to examine change across all rural places in the lower 48 states from 1980 to 2018. Our findings reveal that rural change can be characterized by eleven distinct trajectories, varying from sharp increases in local poverty to more stable levels of prosperity, with varying trajectories of demographic change. We also establish the importance of these changes for intergenerational mobility: in communities where poverty is entrenched or where conditions have worsened, children’s life chances are more uncertain. This more nuanced understanding of the circumstances facing rural communities is essential to address the widening disparities between urban and rural places. Furthermore, our analytical framework provides a template for studying contextual change across a wide range of places, countries and contexts over time.