Posts Tagged ‘rural’

Map of the day

Posted: 5 September 2012 in Uncategorized
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American women were, on average, living 1.7 years longer in 2009 than they were in 1999. But, according to Bill Bishop and Roberto Gallardo [ht: db], that increase was realized in only a handful of rural and exurban counties. In a quarter of rural and exurban counties, women actually lived shorter lives in 2009 than in 1999.

The map for men is here.

One of the favorite targets of deficit-cutting fanatics is the Social Security program.

We shouldn’t forget that an important part of Social Security is the disability program, which (in 2009) paid 9.6 million Americans—4.6 percent of adults—who couldn’t work because of health problems an average of $1,064 a month.

But is disability is not uniform across the United States. As Bill Bishop and Roberto Gallardo [ht: db] explain, rates of disability are 80 percent higher in rural areas than in cities. Why?

Disability payments are concentrated in counties where the jobs require manual labor and where unemployment is traditionally high. Mining and timbering are major industries in many of the counties with the highest percentages of disability beneficiaries. These are also counties with historically high rates of unemployment.

The latest report from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is about rural poverty. It would have been a much better report if it had focused on rural inequality.

As a report on rural poverty, it offers the usual diagnosis and remedies—in other words, agricultural development as usual. It focuses, as expected, on the extent of rural poverty in the world today (e.g., the fact that 1.4 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty, struggling to survive on less than US$1.25 a day, and more than two thirds of them reside in rural areas of developing countries) and strategies to move rural people out of poverty (e.g., by managing risk, promoting access to markets, and investing in education).

What it only mentions in passing, and fails to investigate in any depth, is the extent of rural inequality. Thus, nowhere in the report will readers find any estimates of inequalities in the distribution of income and land ownership (although, on p. 89, IFAD does mention that “Peru now has greater disparities in land ownership than before the agrarian reform of the mid-1970s”). As a consequence, there is no attempt, in the policy proposals, to change the nature of that inequality—either by redistributing land or by encouraging new, more collective forms of rural production (in both farm and nonfarm economies) or by expanding the size and access to common assets.

That would be a real Green Revolution—one that sought not to create “productive, profitable, sustainable and resilient” forms of production but to challenge the power of large landowners and to foster the collective ability of rural workers to appropriate and distribute the surplus they produce.

Rural brain drain

Posted: 21 September 2009 in Uncategorized
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Bethel, VT

Bethel, VT

The authors of a recent study on young people in a small town in Iowa have discussed the results of their study in the Chronicle of Higher Education [ht: pk].

I agree there’s a problem of brain drain—not only in Ellis, Iowa but in Bethel, Vermont and in many other small towns in rural America. Some young people are leaving and many others, who stay, have a dim future.

But, after that, the authors get it all wrong. They take global capitalism as a given, and can’t imagine any noncapitalist alternatives. They recommend changes in education that sort students into the appropriate places in the capitalist job market, and fail to think about reorganizing the economies of rural America—activities in agriculture, industry, and services—in a noncapitalist manner.

Ultimately, with a plan and a vision the undoing of Middle America is not preordained. The rural crisis has been ignored for far too long, but, we believe, it isn’t too late to start paying attention. The residents of rural America must embrace the fact that to survive, the world they knew and cherished must change. And, on a national level, rural development must be more closely linked to national economic growth priorities, and policies must be created to help these communities prepare for a future that is already here.

Their message is adapt to a changing capitalist world, not change that world in a noncapitalist direction. The policies they advocate thus represent a brain drain of another sort. . .