Building Wealth in Rural America
[imgbelt img=Osceolamural.jpg] There are ways for individuals to build their wealth. These strategies would pay particular benefits in rural America.
Residents of rural communities face different challenges than their urban counterparts when they try to build assets or take steps to achieve financial security. The reasons are many and familiar.
Rural communities have seen their share of economic struggles in recent years. Nearly one in six people living in rural America fell below the poverty line in 2009, according to U.S. Census data.
Of the nearly 3 million Texas residents who were classified as rural by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, 19.5 percent were below the poverty line. That is 3 percentage points higher than in urban Texas. Unemployment and educational attainment levels were also worse in rural Texas than in urban Texas.
Additionally, the average price per acre of land in rural Texas at the end of 2009 was $2,086, a 7 percent drop from $2,247 in 2008. These strains are impacting rural communities in ways that are unfamiliar to generations that, for so long, had experienced sustained growth.
To be sure, some West Texas counties report an economic boom from higher commodity prices such as oil, natural gas and cotton and from the growth of the wind energy industry. Generally, though, rural jobs pay low wages and lack the educational reimbursement programs and medical and retirement benefits that can lead to future economic success.
Average earnings per job are nearly $20,000 lower in rural areas than urban. The wealth held by rural families tends to be in the form of assets such as livestock, farm equipment and land, which are hard to convert to cash when needed to cover loss of income and other family emergencies. This is one reason payday lenders seem to target, congregate in and thrive in rural communities.
As local and state governments face daunting budget shortfalls in the recession’s aftermath, problems in rural communities become exaggerated because public programs that could help improve economic opportunities and conditions are cut or never started. Worse yet, the state’s budget woes are impacting school districts, which are often the largest employers in rural communities.
Rural: A Changing Landscape