Rural Change & Quality of Life

The quality of life in rural communities both affects and is affected by the evolution of agriculture and industry, local social organization, public policy, and the movement of people into and out of these areas. For much of the past century, many rural communities have struggled with population and employment loss, high rates of poverty, poor education and training opportunities, and insufficient financial resources to provide basic services to residents. On the other hand, some rural communities, especially those with abundant natural amenities, are experiencing high rates of population, employment, and income growth. Rather than extracting or developing their natural resources, these communities are building economies based on environmental quality and a high quality of life. However, a major concern is that rural population growth may generate congestion and overexploitation that degrade the very amenities that are attracting people to the area. The citizens, businesses, and policymakers who will decide the future of rural America are in need of comprehensive research and outreach to help them understand the forces shaping their communities. If decisions are based on an up-to-date, precise understanding of how jobs, market goods, opportunities, and social life are woven together, rural communities will be better able to adapt and thrive.

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