Rural America

Rural communities face a broad range of challenges in the 21st century, from demographic change to access to essential services, to economic hardship. The Center for American Progress’ growing research on rural America aims to build inclusive rural narratives and develop equitable, progressive solutions.

In this series

Rural Broadband Investments Promote an Inclusive Economy
Wheat grows in a field next to utility poles along a road in Maxatawny Township, Pennsylvania, June 2021. (Getty/Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle)
Article

Rural Broadband Investments Promote an Inclusive Economy

For those in rural communities, especially low-income people and people of color, access to necessary high-quality internet will remain out of reach without government investment.

Caius Z. Willingham, Areeba Haider

With a Focus on Equity, Geography No Longer Has To Be Destiny
A father and son pick raspberries at an orchard in Michigan, July 2008. (Getty/Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group)
Article

With a Focus on Equity, Geography No Longer Has To Be Destiny

With the rural-urban divide in the headlines, it is time to address long-standing inequities by building a more comprehensive equity analysis.

Olugbenga Ajilore, Katrina Badger

The Path to Rural Resilience in America
Elementary school students walk to class in Weaverville, California, August 2020. (Getty/Los Angeles Times/Kent Nishimura)
Report

The Path to Rural Resilience in America

The United States must rethink how it invests in rural communities.

Olugbenga Ajilore, Caius Z. Willingham

Congress Must Help Rural America Respond to the Coronavirus
Report

Congress Must Help Rural America Respond to the Coronavirus

Without clear, consistent action from policymakers, people and businesses will not have enough confidence to return to their jobs and daily activities in the wake of COVID-19.

Olugbenga Ajilore

Rural Americans Are Vulnerable to the Coronavirus
Billing envelopes litter the floor of the shuttered Southeast Health Center in Ellington, Missouri, July 2019. (Getty/Michael S. Williamson)
Article

Rural Americans Are Vulnerable to the Coronavirus

Rural America has a higher proportion of vulnerable populations and more barriers to much-needed resources to keep its communities healthy.

Olugbenga Ajilore, Caius Z. Willingham

Economic Recovery and Business Dynamism in Rural America
A downtown street scene in Missouri, July 2019. (Getty/Michael S. Williamson)
Report

Economic Recovery and Business Dynamism in Rural America

Business growth in rural communities is falling behind that of other communities; this trend must be reversed in order to foster resilience.

Olugbenga Ajilore

Adversity and Assets: Identifying Rural Opportunities
 (A man is shown drinking coffee and having breakfast in a small-town cafe.)
Report

Adversity and Assets: Identifying Rural Opportunities

Rural America has yet to recover from the Great Recession, but by leveraging its communities’ unique strengths, it can build a brighter future for everyone.

Olugbenga Ajilore, Caius Z. Willingham

The Modern Company Town
 (Steam rises from a meatpacking facility in Cactus, Texas, February 2018.)
Report

The Modern Company Town

Workers in highly concentrated labor markets need stronger antitrust enforcement and labor protections.

Caius Z. Willingham, Olugbenga Ajilore

Redefining Rural America
SUNNY SOUTH, AL-NOV 01: Just Northwest of Sunny South is Sweet Water, Alabama. Locals can be counted on to attend the Friday night football games. Though the area is poor, it's hoped that the opening of factories such as Golden Dragon can help boost the local economy. Alabama state and local officials lobbied to convince the Chinese-owned Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group (they make copper tubing for air conditioners) to move to Wilcox County Alabama, where jobs were desperately needed. The plant, near the town of Sunny South now employs about 200 workers with some mixed results. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Report

Redefining Rural America

The United States must build an inclusive narrative of rural communities.

Olugbenga Ajilore, Caius Z. Willingham

Those Left Behind
A high school student in Ruleville, Mississippi, adjusts his cap in preparation for his graduation ceremony, May 2015. (Getty/The Washington Post/Michael S. Williamson)
Report

Those Left Behind

In order to afford all Americans access to higher education, policymakers must recognize how geography and race affect students’ attainment of postsecondary degrees.

Colleen Campbell

5 Facts To Know About Child Care in Rural America
A woman reads to children as she runs her at-home day care in Virginia, July 2012. (Getty/Jabin Botsford)
Article

5 Facts To Know About Child Care in Rural America

Improved access to quality child care would support economic security in rural communities, which have unique child care needs.

Leila Schochet

A Fair Deal for Farmers
A combine harvests wheat on the eastern shore of Maryland, June 2013. (Getty/ Edwin Remsburg)
Report

A Fair Deal for Farmers

Through an analysis of two agricultural markets, this report illuminates the concerning trend of corporate consolidation in agriculture—and the damaging impact this trend has on independent family farms.

Caius Z. Willingham, Andy Green

Progressive Governance Can Turn the Tide for Black Farmers
A crop farmer and recipient of USDA farm subsidies works to prepare equipment for evening planting of corn in Hull, Sioux County, Iowa, April 2011. (Getty/Melina Mara)
Report

Progressive Governance Can Turn the Tide for Black Farmers

Inclusive progressive solutions are key to addressing the structural racism of previous U.S. farm policies—something that nearly wiped out black farmers.

Abril Castro, Caius Z. Willingham

Proactive and Patient
Report

Proactive and Patient

The small Nebraskan towns of Lexington and Madison offer encouraging examples of how proactivity and practicality can help communities embrace the nation’s multicultural destiny and emerge stronger for their collective efforts.

Sara McElmurry

Defining Success for the Wildfire Funding Fix
Report

Defining Success for the Wildfire Funding Fix

Congress has passed a solution to keep wildfires from dominating U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department budgets. Now it should give these agencies the tools to deliver the greatest benefits to public safety and forest health.

Ryan Richards

Head Start in Rural America
Fact Sheet

Head Start in Rural America

These 10 state facts sheets provide comprehensive new information on the number of rural families served by Head Start, including rates of health service delivery.

Leila Schochet, Rasheed Malik

Rural Pragmatism
Report

Rural Pragmatism

Rural communities across the country are moving beyond reliance on boom-and-bust extractive industries toward a more prosperous and sustainable future that is rooted in their land, history, and way of life.

Jenny Rowland-Shea

A Compass for Families
Report

A Compass for Families

Head Start helps fill a critical void in early childhood education and service delivery in rural America.

Rasheed Malik, Leila Schochet

The Gender Wage Gap Among Rural Workers
A cashier rings up a costumer. (Getty/Jeffrey Greenberg)
Article

The Gender Wage Gap Among Rural Workers

While all rural workers make less, rural women of color face an especially large wage gap.

Katherine Gallagher Robbins, Jocelyn Frye, Annie McGrew

Fertile Ground
Report

Fertile Ground

The farm bill is America's largest funding source for private lands conservation; its programs can be better leveraged to attract billions of dollars in private investment, increasing the economic and environmental benefits of conservation on working lands.

Ryan Richards, Mary Ellen Kustin, William Murray, 1 More Caroline Kitchens

A Progressive Plan for Ending Poverty — Including Rural Poverty — in America
In the News

A Progressive Plan for Ending Poverty — Including Rural Poverty — in America

Author Katherine Gallagher Robbins outlines a progressive plan for ending rural poverty that would ensure that all Americans have access to the opportunities and support they need to thrive.

Katherine Gallagher Robbins