The Daily Yonder's coverage of rural economic issues, including workforce development and the future of work in rural America, is supported in part by Microsoft.
Rural areas and central cities have something in common, according to Dante Chinni over at the Christian Science Monitor’s wonderful Patchwork Nation site. Chinni and political scientist James Gimpel have divided the nation into 12 communities that all have similar traits. (There’s “Tractor Country” and “Service Worker Centers,” for example.) When Chinni and Gimpel look at county unemployment rates, they find, “Rural, small-town America has taken a particularly big hit, as have places with large African-American populations. Big cities and their wealthy suburban neighbors have seen good-sized bumps as well.”
Agricultural counties have been “spared much of the hardship,” according to Chinni and Gimpel. Tractor Country counties have seen their unemployment rates rise by only 1.5 percentage points in the last year. These are the least densely populated parts of the country with median incomes below the national average.
Why is Tractor Country faring so well? Chinni writes that Tractor Country counties “tend to be the least integrated in the financial and manufacturing sectors of the economy. Almost no heavy factory work is being done in those places and, as we noted earlier this year, they have fewer banks that took money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program – or TARP.” “Tractor Country’ is the best place to ride out a recession, providing you had a job in the first place,” Gimpel said.