Rural Poverty Persists

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Poverty Issues

April 2010
By Qiana Flores

Images of poverty are typically portrayed with an urban backdrop of run-down public housing units, neglected inner-city schools and dilapidated concrete playgrounds.

Poverty rates for rural Americans, however, are consistently higher than those in urban areas: 16 percent compared to 13 percent in 2008. Of the 48 million people who lived in rural areas in 2008, 7.7 million lived in poverty.

Rural communities struggle not only with isolation and remoteness, but a significantly older and declining population, with less-educated and poorer citizens than in urban areas.

Poverty rates for children in rural areas continue to be higher than rates for urban children, and the gap has been growing over the past 20 years, according to a new report from the Carsey Institute. One in five poor children lives in a rural area. These children are also more likely to be exposed to substance abuse and lack of health care.

In addition, rural workers are twice as likely to make only minimum wage and more likely to be working, yet still poor. Rural poverty also tends to be more persistent and longer term than that found in cities.

Sources: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2009; Carsey Institute 2009; Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture 2009, U.S. Census Estimates, 2009.