Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Reasons for Economic Optimism in Rural America Highlighted in New CAP Brief
Press Release

RELEASE: Reasons for Economic Optimism in Rural America Highlighted in New CAP Brief

Washington, D.C. — It is well documented that rural America has been particularly slow to recover from the Great Recession. A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress finds, however, that rural America is not a monolith and that certain types of rural counties have fared better than others in the decade since the recession ended. Among the key findings:

  1. Employment in some rural counties, especially in the West and parts of the Midwest, has rebounded.
  2. More populous rural counties have fared better than the most-rural counties.

The issue brief also highlights the unique assets that rural communities have leveraged to grow and promote resilience. These assets include but are not limited to:

  1. Growing populations and workforces in some counties due to international immigration
  2. Natural resources, including amenities such as public parks as well as tradable commodities such as corn and timber
  3. Innovation and adaption in both the agricultural and manufacturing industries
  4. Community social capital resulting from close-knit communities and social infrastructure

“The past decade has been incredibly challenging for many rural communities. The data show that in many rural communities, employment and earnings have not yet reached prerecession levels,” said Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at CAP and one of the authors of the report. “Still, the data show many reasons for optimism. There are certainly many rural counties that have leveraged their unique assets to grow their economies.”

Read the issue brief: “Adversity and Assets: Identifying Rural Opportunities” by Olugbenga Ajilore and Zoe Willingham

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at or 202-495-3682.