A new report from the U.S.D.A. shows the urban-rural poverty gap continues to close.
John Cromartie is with the U.S.D.A.’s Economic Research Service. “Today, the gap is around three percentage points, around 16 percent rural poverty versus 13 percent urban poverty,” Cromartie says.
The gap has been slowly declining since 1960 when the Rural America at a Glance Report was first published. At that time, 54 years ago, the gap between rural and urban poverty was at 17 percent.
Cromartie says while overall rural poverty rates declined slightly from last year, persistent rural poverty — or rural counties with 20 percent or more of their population poor for at least 30 years — continues to be very regional. “These persistently poor counties are located very much in the South, 85 percent of them are in the South for the rural counties, but rural poverty is also entrenched in parts of the Southwest and the Northern Great Plains,” Cromartie says.
The report also found the rural population is shrinking for the first time. U.S.D.A. credits fewer births, an aging population and an outmigration of young adults for the decline.
Employment in rural areas since 2011 has increased modestly with medium incomes also increasing. The report says infrastructure investments like access to broadband and more public services could improve rural economies and quality of life for residents.
In Iowa, just under 36-percent of the state’s residents live in rural areas. According to the most recent data from the U.S.D.A., the poverty rate in rural Iowa is 11.5.percent, compared with 11.9.percent in urban areas of the state.