Roundup: The House Divided

WSF looks at the urban-rural political and cultural divide • Drought could lower rural school attendance in California • Different programs try to address rural doctor shortage • Nebraska’s rejection of Medicaid expansion will hurt state, advocates say

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We know that rural areas are more likely to vote Republican in recent years. A Wall Street Journal graph paints a vivid picture of that political trend.

The “rural” part of the graph above shows the percentage of rural voters who are represented in the U.S. House by a Republican (red line) or a Democrat (blue line). The “urban” graph shows the same information for urban voters.

1994 is the watershed year. That’s the year of the “Gingrich Revolution,” when Republicans won control of the House for the first time since 1952.

Before the 1994 election, rural voters were more likely to be represented by a Democratic House member.

Urban voters saw less dramatic change in the party affiliation of their House members. In 2013 urban voters were slightly more likely to be represented by a Democrat than a Republican. It’s important to note, however, that there are more urban voters than rural ones, so small changes in urban preferences can mean bigger changes in the House of Representatives.

The Wall Street Journal’s Dante Chinni created the graph. He used Census data, which includes a breakout of the rural and urban populations for each Congressional district.

The charts are part of a story by Laura Meckler examining the political and cultural differences between rural and urban communities. She concludes that those differences “have grown vast and deep, and now are an underappreciated factor in dividing the U.S. political system.”

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California’s drought could cause rural school districts to see a drop in attendance as some families leave stricken areas because of declines in employment opportunity – especially in the agricultural sector.

The state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said he will help ensure that schools that see enrollment declines from drought aren’t penalized in their share of state funding, reports SFGate.com. He has that authority under the governor’s drought emergency declaration.

Ag jobs disappear when there’s less water to irrigate and fields that are normally farmed go unplanted.

In Fresno County, the state’s most agriculturally productive county, attendance at many rural schools has dropped because families of farm laborers have moved on, according to the county Office of Education.

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The U.S. Postal Service is rolling back a rate increase for Alaska customers who ship to or from communities without road access. The change was made after political backlash from a rate hike that disproportionately affected rural communities, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

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Medical programs in are trying a variety of ways to get more primary care physicians to practice in rural areas. In Missouri, it’s part of the state’s effort to reverse the trend of dropping longevity among rural women, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

The University of Missouri sets aside slots for medical students who come from rural areas and agree to practice in rural places upon completing their studies. In Kansas, the state established a medical school outside major metropolitan areas – there’s a school in Salina, in the north-central part of the state.

Life expectancy for women dropped in 34 Missouri counties between 1997 and 2007 in 34 Missouri counties, 27 of which are rural.

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Also in Missouri, rural school districts are being disproportionately harmed by the state’s failure to fully fund public education, according to a report from the nonprofit Missouri Budget Project.

“The report said the shortfalls tend to be worse in rural schools, which often rely more heavily on state funding because lower property values make it harder to raise revenue through local property taxes,” the Columbia Tribune reports.

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A property survey in Great Britain shows that houses that lack good broadband connections are worth about 20% less than homes that have faster connection speeds, according to a column by Oxfordshire County Council member Nick Carter.

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Nebraska’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the terms of the federal Affordable Care Act will be a costly one, says a staff member of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons. 

 

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