Poverty in Rural Areas

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The decline in population in the countryside in the U.S. has shown signs of instability, where urban centers continue to rise and rural areas are continually decreasing to promote rural poverty (Fischer, Jordan and Fazley 11). For example, the proportions of rural to urban have increased from 63 per cent in 1960 to 84 per cent in 2010 in the study conducted by Fischer, Jordan and Fazley (11), which is proof that rural to urban was overlooked due to weak government. Thus the fact that the United States continues to ignore rural growth is certainly proven (Gurley 589). The fact that rural poverty has been ignored in the U.S makes this topic worth exploration. Surprisingly, the America media has majorly focused on the life in the inner cities. The rural poverty remains invisible for the majority of people living in the urban centers. Despite the attempt of the rural sociologists to raise the issue of rural poverty in various forums, they have been sidelined for quite sometimes. Consequently, the current rural sociologists can merely do much because they are judged harshly by the past scenarios. For this paper, I have selected the topic because of the attributed constant shrinkage in the rural settlements in the U.S due to the migration of the population to the metropolitan areas. The outsourcing of the U.S jobs in the manufacturing sector and the introduction of the many industries has led to the creation of many jobs and this has been the cause of rural to urban migration (Gurley 590). As a result, the population and the output from the countryside have been ignored and all efforts set towards the urban lives. Consequently, the rural to urban migration has led to a serious restructuring of the U.S’s economy and the world as a whole.

There are many issues which should be answered as far as the rural poverty in America is concerned. By the year 2010, the population in the rural area had gone to 84% and therefore, leaving only 16% in the countryside (Fischer, Jordan and Fazley 11). The majorities of the people who remain in the rural areas are particularly weak and as a result, are given little attention to justice and cannot get the services of the policymakers as well as the America as a whole. Greater understanding of the rural poverty is only possible if the issues such as the causes, demographics and the severity can be answered. Further, other problems which I would want to be answered include additional challenges that the poor face at the rural areas, why they are neglected and the past as well as the current programs to alleviate poverty in the countryside. Without elaborate address to these conditions, their problems are bound to exist even in future.

One of the causes of the rural poverty is the unemployment. The poverty rate is higher at the rural areas than at the urban centers and this high rate of poverty is due to low wages earned at the rural areas. Besides, there are no diverse job opportunities and this makes the rest of the population rely heavily on the low wages and the few employment opportunities. Davis (3) argues that political sidelining of the rural people in policy making has also contributed to poverty levels at the rural areas. The people living in the rural areas have, for decades, not been involved in the process of making decisions which affect their poverty. As a result, the people who have been involved in solving this menace are never affected in any way and hence there is assurance that such efforts will be fruitless even in future. Further, Davis adds that perhaps the cause of the abandonment of the rural people is due to demographic differences and this leads to lack of awareness for the rural residents. Therefore, the rural as well urban dwellers should be included equally in policy-making despite demographic barriers so that they can directly take part in the poverty eradication.

Education has also been linked to the cause of the issue and this cannot be left unanswered. Educational access at the rural levels is deficient because of the geographical distance of the schools and the rural communities and this cause barrier and the consequence is high illiteracy level (Kusmin et al. 30). Kusmin et al. (31) emphasize that lack of education has led to increased ignorance level and thus denying many people the opportunities for employment. Some people also remain at the rural and cannot move to the urban centers to look for work or any other job due inability to communicate. Unlike the rural residents, the urban dwellers have a higher percentage of people with high diploma qualifications and university degrees and this academic difference between the countryside and the cities has been proved to be the cause of the economic gap between the rural and the urban areas in America.

Case study method

I would use a case study method to bring insights into the topic of rural poverty. While many cannot imagine poverty to exist, it is real and many case studies can support this. Hunt et al. (15) assert that case study method is essential in the examination as well as analysis of the current problem that exists in society. The figure below shows a case study for comparison of poverty at the national, urban and rural levels in Mexico which is part of America. Indeed, in the years between 1992 and 2004 Mexico was characterized by extreme poverty.

Source: Ruiz-Castillo 78

The above figure is a case study showing how Mexico registered the highest number of the poor from the rural between 1996 and 1998 (Ruiz-Castillo 78). The extreme poverty between 1992 and 2004 was caused by the economic crisis in America in the year 1995. Surprisingly, in the year 2004, there was reduced net of the poverty level relative to the year 1992 (Ruiz-Castillo 78). The reduced net poverty after the disastrous economic crisis affirms the long-term effect of the 1995 crisis among the rural residents. The financial stability at the provincial level is important for rural stability but this case study of Mexico is a confirmation that Mexico experienced slow performance in agriculture to increase its economic stability at the rural level and this contributed to the discussed highest poverty index at the rural level than at the national and urban levels. Moreover, rural parts of Mexico experienced stagnant wages and this been the contributing factor in the purchasing power of the rural residents which is a characteristic of a poor population. Finally, the advantage of the case study method is that it brings the reality of the experience which can be used to solve the current problem.

Functionality theory

Based on the functionalist theory, this topic of rural poverty makes sense even in the current context of the rural populations in America. According to the functionalist theory, the society and thus the rural life are interconnected by nature and due to this interconnectedness; it becomes difficult in effecting policy in only one part of the community (Hunt 14). Hunt’s argument proves the case of rural poverty in America. The existence of the rural poverty has, in one way or the other, has been due to the neglect of the rural populations by the policymakers. The policies which have been made before have only favored the urban population. While many sociologists argue that people should not entirely rely on the past, this argument may be wrong to some extent. The past and the current societal set-up are interrelated and interconnected in one way or the other. The theory can, therefore, be used in solving the problem of poverty in the rural areas of America. Despite the progress of the economic stability of American states, there is still the existence of adverse poverty level at the countryside in America.

Despite the topic being emotional because of the neglect of the rural population, I have separated and controlled my personal feeling through upholding a high sense of professionalism and consulting research papers. As first, I thought that America being a developing country should experience high poverty level at the rural level. However, this condition is caused by unavoidable circumstances which should nonetheless be given a different approach. Looking at the topic from an outsider point of view has been challenging if not hard. Scholars say that experience is the best teacher; it is challenging to envisage the problem because it has not affected you. However, despite this challenge, the topic remains the best example of the problems which affect the society.

The results of the case study conducted show that rural part of Mexico has experienced migration of rural labor to the urban centers and other states of America (Taylor et al. 104). Further, between the years 1990 and 2002, the number of people working from the Mexico rural areas rose to 14% from the 7% and these results make Mexico the best laboratory for evaluating the impacts of rural poverty in America (Taylor et al. 104). Today, the results of the empirical research on the effects of the rural migration and thus the rural poverty have been by surveys and the best samples of communities from the rural part of the Mexico. The population in the rural part of Mexico is so heterogynous that they eliminate the concept of generalization. The results are, therefore, a representation of the heterogynous characteristics of the people.

The result of the research on the rural poverty and particularly from the Mexico has nonetheless surprised me. Across the globe, America is known to be economically developed and the existence of the poverty among parts of its citizens of this century is quite disturbing. There is need to have a concerted effort from the scholars, government, policymakers and other stakeholders to solve the problem.


The findings from the case study of Mexico at the national, urban and rural levels imply that rural poverty is a result of migration from the countryside to the cities. The effect of unequal movement has led to increased rural income inequalities and hence the genesis of poverty at the rural level. As the functionality theorist puts it, the societies are interconnected and this means that the former status of the organization can give in-depth insight into the future condition of the community. There is a likelihood that in future, the rural poverty will remain the same despite the perception that America is economic development and therefore such rural status cannot exist.

The reasons discussed for the existence of the poverty at the rural levels cannot be eliminated any soon. There is, therefore, undisputed evidence that the rural population in America in other states in addition to the Mexico rural residents will continue to exist even in the coming days. In fact, the countryside will be isolated regarding geography and culture. The only way to avert this condition is through concerted efforts from the academicians and the policymakers. Besides migration to the urban centers, other causes of the rural poverty include unemployment and low wages. In conclusion, the rural poverty is a reality which cannot be ignored and this fact should be approached as a universal problem and not a problem of the rural communities in America only.

Works Cited

Davis, Dee. “Why Don’t Those Hillbillies Like Obama?.” (2008). http://dividethemovie.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Salon-Hillbillies-Dont-Like-Obama.pdf

Fischer, Jordan, and Fazley Siddiq. “Trends in Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Populations in Canada and the United States over Fifty Years.” (2013).

Gurley, Lauren. “Who’s Afraid of Rural Poverty? The story behind America’s invisible poor.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 75.3 (2016): 589-604.

Hunt, Elgin F., and David C. Colander. Social science: An introduction to the study of society. Taylor & Francis, 2016.

Kusmin, Lorin, Robert Gibbs, and Timothy Parker. “Education’s role in the Metro-nonmetro earnings divides.” Amber Waves 6.1 (2008): 30-35.

Ruiz-Castillo, Javier. “Pobreza relativa y absoluta. El caso de México (1992-2004).” El Trimestre Económico 76.301 (2009): 67-99.

Taylor, J. Edward, et al. “Remittances, Inequality and Poverty: Evidence from Rural Mexico.” IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. As an intergovernmental organization, IOM acts with its partners in the international community to: assist in meeting the operational challenges of migration; advance understanding of migration issues; encourage social and economic development through migration; and uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.. 2008.

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