RTC:Rural is proud that our researchers were invited to contribute to this article, which was published in The Conversation on March 17, 2017, and subsequently on PBS News, US News & World Report, and Salon.
Authors: Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today.
1. Poverty is higher in rural areas
Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.
Finding big data about rural America is challenging. Finding big data about disability in rural America can seem impossible. Meanwhile, access to current information about disability in rural areas is important as these areas consistently experience higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.
The Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) recently re-launched the Disability Counts Data Finder, an online tool that allows users to easily access disability data for every county in the United States and Puerto Rico. Using a simple interface, users select their state and counties of interest, and generate a table with population estimates, disability rates, margins of error, and rural/urban classifications.
Disability Counts uses the most recent 5-year American Community Survey data and the 2015 Office of Management and Budget Metropolitan-Micropolitan Statistical Areas delineation files. These datasets were specifically chosen so that Disability Counts could provide insight into the county’s rural status alongside the disability rate, clearly showing the correlation between disability rates and rural areas. We have found that this information is particularly sought after by advocates and policymakers.
Disability rates by county across the United States – rural counties consistently show higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.
Lillie Greiman, Andrew Myers and Christiane von Reichert
We are proud that the feature article of today’s issue of The Conversation newsletter includes the work of RTC:Rural’s geography project.
Lillie Greiman, M.A., and Andrew Myers, M.A., RTC:Rural Research Associates, with Christiane von Reichert, Ph.D., Professor of Geography at the University of Montana, contributed to an article about the rural/urban divide that was recently published on The Conversation.
Titled “Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America,” the article is a collaboration among the UM researchers and sociologists, economists, and historians at universities around the country. The article explores factors that contribute to the differences between life in rural and urban areas.
Greiman, Myers, and von Reichert contributed the section about disability rates across the country, based on their previous research and analysis of the most recent American Community Survey data.
The Conversation is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community. It is a foundation-supported news source with a mission to help professors get high-quality research into the public sphere.
In late 2016, rural disability stakeholders had the opportunity to provide comment and personal testimony to influence the focus of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research’s (NIDILRR) 2017-2023 Long Range Plan. RTC:Rural engaged with stakeholders at the 2016 Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference in October to help them share their comments with NIDILRR about what is important to them from the rural disability perspective. We encourage our fellow stakeholders to, again, take the opportunity to review NIDILRR’s 2017-2023 Long Range Plan to provide more input on the focus on NIDILRR’s research for the next five years.
Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Rural Institute Associate Director and RTC:Rural Employment Project Director
Dr. Catherine Ipsen’s paper “Rural and urban vocational rehabilitation self-employment outcomes” was published in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Dr. Ipsen is the Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Rural Employment Research at RTC:Rural. Dr. Ipsen co-authored the paper with Dr. Grant Swicegood, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Central Methodist University.
The paper examines self-employment rates among vocational rehabilitation (VR) consumers in rural versus urban areas, noting that rates are higher in rural areas.
Dr. Ipsen and Swicegood report that VR consumers who are self-employed work fewer hours per week and earn more than those in competitive job placements. In spite of this, the study found that many VR agencies do not promote self-employment to their clients, for a variety of reasons.
Self-employment is a viable option for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities, though many VR agencies do not promote self-employment to their clients, for a variety of reasons.
Drs. Ipsen and Swicegood conclude that self-employment is a viable option for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities.
In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are showcasing the Telecom Toolbox, a website and blog dedicated to career development using social media and online methods. The Telecom Toolbox is a product of RTC:Rural research about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professional’s use of social media. While the internet has become the primary resource for job seekers and employers, VR agencies are not fully utilizing current job seeking methods. In fact, research shows that online career development practices are partially limited in VR due to counselor unpreparedness to use social media.
To address this barrier, the Telecom Toolbox includes specific ideas for how consumers and counselors can use online tools and social media platforms in a job search process. These include strategies to: Continue reading
Rural areas dominate the American landscape by as much as 72%-97% of total landmass. While fewer Americans live in rural areas (approximately 15-19%) than urban areas, they make up a larger share of Americans who are unemployed, elderly, live in poverty and who have a disability. Living in rural America can place people with disabilities at a disadvantage. For example, rural residents may encounter serious barriers to accessing services such as healthcare which are typically much sparser and more expensive than in urban areas. Ideally, community services, programs, and policies use up-to-date information to determine what is needed and for whom. However, between 2000-2013 no new information about people with disabilities in rural areas was available. This knowledge gap has negatively impacted our ability to understand or track changes in the needs of people with disabilities living in rural communities.
There is an urgent need to update current knowledge about people with disabilities living in rural America. We used 2010-2014 data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to determine the distribution and demographics of people with disabilities living in rural areas. While data from the ACS puts the national disability rate at 12.4%, disability is more common in the most rural counties (17.7%) compared to the most urban (11.7%). It is true that rates of disability in rural areas may be higher due to an older population, however, rates of disability are higher in rural areas across all ages and impairment types. Clearly, rural matters. Disability is a rural issue and one that should not be ignored. Look for more information about the geography of rural disability as we explore more data from the ACS coming soon!
Living Well with a Disability, a health promotion program developed by RTC: Rural over 25 years of continued research and development, will be highlighted as a successful, community-based program in an upcoming Healthy People 2020 webinar sponsored by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The webinar: Progress Review on Improving Health Outcomes through Inclusion and Participation, August 11th, 12:30-2pm, will highlight how public health efforts are improving inclusion, participation, and health-related quality of life and well-being for Americans with and without disabilities.
In her presentation to talk about the Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH) as “a community-based initiative with a proven track record of improving health outcomes,” MTDH Director at UM’s Rural Institute for Community Inclusion, Meg Ann Traci, Ph.D., will be highlighting the long line of research and development of the Living Well with a Disability health promotion program, MTDH’s integrative and collaborative work with DPHHS and other community stakeholders, as well as the continued development of Living Well with a Disability at RTC:Rural with current funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.
Register today and share with others interested in learning more!
Thank you to all who attended our State of the Science webinar symposium on housing and community engagement. Craig Ravesloot, Lillie Greiman, and Andrew Myers from the RTC:Rural and Bryce Ward from the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research shared the latest findings from three different datasets. An analysis of the American Housing Survey reveals that many people with mobility impairments live in homes that lack basic access features. For example, 57% of households in which someone uses mobility equipment (e.g., cane, crutch, wheelchair, scooter) have steps at their entrance and 62% lack grab bars in their bathrooms. Results from the American Time Use Survey indicate that people with mobility impairments are less likely to bathe and less likely to leave home than people without mobility impairment. As such, people with mobility impairments spend more time resting and less time engaged in activities which typically require more exertion. Data from our Health and Home Survey, which was developed with input from a team of Center for Independent Living
(CIL) advisors, suggests that bathing exertion is related to community engagement. For example, bathing was rated as one of the most exertion-demanding activities throughout the home, and people who reported more exertion while bathing were less likely to engage in social and recreational activities. Looking to the future, we hope to explore how reducing exertion in the home may increase opportunities and choices for community engagement.
View the video archive of the symposium
View the Slide Presentation
Explore more of the community participation research
Read more about our other State of the Science Colloquia