The rural brain gain, Ben Winchester, University of Minnesota Extension
“High school graduates often leave small towns. They go to college. Or get jobs in the city. But census data shows that many come back to rural areas — often in their 30s and 40s. And they come with college degrees, work experience, professional contacts and children.
Some lifetime city dwellers move to rural areas, too. They are eager to make a new life in a rural community. These educated and skilled residents moving or returning to rural areas are a part of the brain gain. …”
College graduates: Don’t dismiss rural America, The New York Times
“When I talk to undergraduate students about their postgraduate plans, they typically tell me about something that involves moving to a large city. They are often sure of the city even before they know what they want to do there. When I ask why they are moving to San Francisco — or Denver, or Nashville or New York — the answer inevitably reveals a common assumption: Big cities are where highly educated people must go to succeed economically and socially.
The conventional wisdom among young college-educated people seems to be that living in a small country town would be a dead end for them — that rural America is a homogeneously conservative, isolated and unpleasant place. But these preconceptions are not only incorrect, they are also unduly limiting the opportunities of new college graduates.
I recently analyzed the data from a nationwide survey on community and society conducted by the American Enterprise Institute. The data show that rural areas are not ideologically monolithic; that college-educated Americans living in rural areas feel they are meaningfully connected to their communities; that these people are quite satisfied with their communities and the available professional opportunities, and are not looking to move away. …”
“Priscilla Bogema lives in a rural town called McGregor, Minn., in a part of the state that has more trees and lakes than people.
She came here about 20 years ago seeking solitude during a major crisis in her life. She had just gotten divorced and was dealing with some health problems. “So I came to a place where nobody could see me,” she says.
Now Bogema is in her 60s, frail and mostly confined to her house. Her arthritis and other health problems have limited her mobility. She struggles with the upkeep of her home and yard. She
drives into town once a week for groceries and a movie with other seniors. But she doesn’t have close friends she sees regularly, and her children and grandchildren visit only once every few months. …”
“Members of the media have taken excursions to the heartland to try to get back in touch with rural America, after it seemed much of the country was taken by surprise by how much now-President Donald Trump’s messaging resonated while on the campaign trail.
But critics of this type of reporting suggest that these pieces pander to workers using racist rhetoric, or soft-pedal factual inaccuracies in the name of “getting to know these folks.”
Plus, the American desire for the heartland extends to our own homes. If they could live anywhere they wished, Americans would choose to live in a rural location, according to a U.S. Census Bureau poll.
What do we get wrong about rural Americans, and the issues that affect them? And why are some people choosing to move back to the rural spaces where they grew up? …”
Something special is happening in rural America, The New York Times
“For more than a century following the Industrial Revolution, rural and small-town people left home to pursue survival in commercial meccas. According to the American story, those who thrived in urban centers “made it” — a capitalist triumph for the individual, a damaging loss for the place he left. We often refer to this as “brain drain” from the hinterlands, implying that those who stay lack the merit or ability to “get out.”
But that old notion is getting dusty.
The nation’s most populous cities, the bicoastal pillars of aspiration — New York City and Los Angeles — are experiencing population declines, most likely driven by unaffordability. Other metros are experiencing growth, to be sure, especially in the South and West. But there is an exodus afoot that suggests a national homecoming, across generations, to less bustling spaces. Last year, Gallup found that while roughly 80 percent of us live in urban areas, rural life was the most wished for. …”
Headlines claim rural communities are dying, The Homecomers [Podcast]
“A national blind spot toward rural and working-class America is driving misleading headlines, broken politics and dangerous fissures in our social fabric. The Homecomers with Sarah Smarsh offers a more accurate story of those ill-understood spaces. A native of rural Kansas, journalist and bestselling author Sarah Smarsh brings you intimate conversations with six champions of rural America. As “homecomers”—residents and advocates who remain committed to places where society and the economy would have them “get out”—they are preserving and strengthening the
vibrancy and inclusiveness of small towns, rural lands and misunderstood communities that headlines claim are dying.
The United States has two geographic parts: the places our economy and culture tell us to get out of and the places we’re told to seek in order to make it. But I think there’s a shift going on beneath the surface of our national story: it’s a return to, or a refusal to leave, the least glamorous corners of this country. I’m taking about the small towns, rural lands, working class communities that national headlines say are dying in order to fight for the place that feels like home. …”
Building Your Future in Indiana, TheAtlantic.com
“This spring, Deb Fallows and I made a trip through Indiana for a series of events and meetings… We were in Muncie, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and the small northern-Indiana town of Angola.
While we were there, a video team from New America made a series of three short films. They’re about the up-close realities of issues that usually appear as slogans or abstractions in so many speeches, policy papers, and panel discussions.
These are issues such as “restoring opportunity,” “re-creating middle-class jobs,” and “bringing hope to the heartland.” Or about working with “returning citizens,” those who have been incarcerated, to increase their chances of a successful return to economic and family life.
To put it another way: Everyone talks about creating opportunity. Here’s what it looks like when people do something about it. …”
About the organizers
Independent Colleges of Indiana serves as the collective voice for the state’s 30 private, non-profit colleges and universities. ICI institutions employ nearly 22,000 Hoosiers and generate a total local economic impact of $5 billion annually. Students at ICI colleges have Indiana’s highest four-year, on-time graduation rates, and ICI intuitions produce nearly 30 percent of Indiana’s bachelor’s degrees while enrolling 20 percent of its undergraduates. More information about ICI is available at icindiana.org.
Indiana Humanities connects people, opens minds and enriches lives by creating and facilitating programs that encourage Hoosiers to think, read and talk. INseparable is a two-year Indiana Humanities initiative that invites Hoosiers to explore how we relate to each other across boundaries, real or imagined, and consider what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter. Learn more at IndianaHumanities.org/INseparable.
Indiana Philanthropy Alliance (IPA) champions, supports, and connects members as they transform Indiana through effective philanthropy. The largest network serving philanthropy in Indiana, IPA membership comprises grantmaking organizations, corporate giving programs, and individuals. Learn more at INphilanthropy.org.