Monday, October 17, 2016

Divided Nation - Rural vs Urban America

On Saturday, Ann Medlock, of the Giraffe Heroes Project, shared a story on Facebook that prompted me to write this.  The article is titled "How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind" and was talking about how so many American's are supporting Donald Trump for President.

I read the article and encourage you to read it too.  If you live in a city, some of the ideas may turn you off, or challenge your thinking. If you live in rural America, or grew up there, you might say, as the author did, "That could be me."

Included in the article was a map showing the 2012 Presidential Election voting, on a county-by county basis.

The red counties on this map represent rural, mostly White, America. The blue counties represent urban America, with much larger populations of people of color. Reading the article I began to look at "TWO Americas" from a "rural-urban" perspective, not just from a "White-Minority" or "Rich-Poor" perspective.

Of course, they are all related.

What's driving the motivation of rural America is a changing economy that has caused factories and jobs to leave smaller cities and rural areas, leaving poverty and a lack of hope in its wake. The article talks about how popular culture (movies, TV, radio, music), coming out of urban Ameria, have helped prepare rural America to accept Trump. One line in the article was, "He's our "asxhxxle"

I did a little more digging today, and visited the web site of Mark Newman  There are several more maps on the site, like the one below. This shows that not all of the Red counties are 100% Republican and not all of the Blue counties are 100% Democratic.

What this map does not show is the racial mix across America.  The article about rural America voting for Trump does not focus on the race and inequality issues that Black American's have been focusing on, yet it's there.

I recalled another web site that I saw a couple of years ago, with what's called a "Racial Dot Map". I've included a screen shot below, showing the full country.  The map has color coded dots showing where different racial groups are most concentrated.
You will need to open the site and zoom in to get better information from this map, but just by comparing this to the map above, you see two patterns. A large part of the Republican counties East of the Mississippi are high majority White. Cities and urban areas across the country have high minority populations.  However, the areas West of the Mississippi, mostly Republican, have very low population density. This is lack of population density is a different rural America than Appalachia and the US South.   I encourage you to read Newman's article and see how he describes how population density affects the general election vote, as well as the Electoral College vote.

My take-away?

First, the issues of race and poverty in America are complex, and getting consistent attention of people in Red and Blue states will be difficult.  For the past 40 years I have focused on helping urban areas build and sustain non-school support systems for youth living in poverty.  However, I've recognized that there needs to be a parallel group duplicating my efforts, with a focus on rural areas. I recently found an organization called Rural Assembly, who is doing some of this.

Second, the problems facing rural American and its loss of jobs, rising poverty, growing drug abuse and suicide rates is also a wicked problem, that won't be solved by more tutor/mentor programs. It's not a problem I've spent much time thinking about, since the problems I do focus on are far beyond my own area of influence.

However, graphics like this illustrate a path toward possible solutions. It shows how a few of us can reach out to others, and build a network of learners, which grows over time. 

In articles on the Tutor/Mentor blog I focus on learning, complex problems, network building, etc. These do apply to both of the issues this article focuses on.  Getting more people personally engaged in learning about the problems we face, and using their own time, talent and dollars to build solutions, is the one strategy that I keep sharing that can lead to a more connected America focusing on problems, not personalities, and focusing on well-thought-out solutions, not vague promises. 

I hope you'll take a look.

Jan 27, 2017 update.  The election is over and Trump won. People on the left are in panic mode fearing the destruction of our democracy by a Hitler-like Trump. Poor people who voted for Trump are likely to suffer as much, or more, from program cuts he is proposing. So why did they vote for him?  This MotherJones article offers a look into that voter and his motivations.   For people on the left to create an alternative to Trump, they need to understand and find ways to connect with people who voted for Trump.

Jan 31, 2017  update - this site show the most conservative and most liberal states in the US, emphasizing how difficult it will be to build a middle ground consensus in America.

Feb 18, 2017 update - This link points to a set of articles, starting with "America's long (unaddressed) history of class.

June 19, 2017 update - blogger writes about hopelessness in rural America. click here

Aug. 11, 2017  update - Rural Poverty in Illinois growing faster than urban poverty. - article

Jan. 2, 2018 update - The 100 year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick and stuck on coal. - article 

Jan 8, 2018 update - The Divide Between America's Prosperous Cities and and Struggling Small Towns - in 20 charts - WSJ article

Jan. 8, 2018  update - Native Americans and Path to Voting Rights - NY Times article

July 20, 2018 update - review of community organizing around racial justice issues in rural America - pdf - click here

April 13, 2020 update
- two useful resources are The Center on Rural Innovation and The Rural Opportunity Map

December 1, 2020 update
- why Democrats keep losing Rural American voters - with recommended fixes. click here

 Jan 26, 2021 update - Five Ways Joe Biden Can Help Rural America - click here

Nov 22, 2021  update - St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank released collection of essays focused on "Investing in Rural Prosperity". Find full collection at this link.   

Then read the essay titled "Geographic Equity belongs in Federal Policy Making" - click here 

On page 4 of the introduction is this statement "If you are working to alleviate poverty or generate prosperity, map the location of program beneficiaries & layer it w a #map of persistent poverty counties. If program benefits do not reach the poorest places, you may be inadvertently contributing to our inequitable system."    This describes a use of geographic mapping that I've proposed for over 25 years. 


tellio said...

I think it is fascinating that we both took as a mentor text, Tyler Durden's spot on critique of the sociology of urban v rural. I didn't know you had written your post. The Zeitgeist Is Powerful.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another story showing that the red-blue political maps we traditionally see don't tell the full story.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

The New York Times created a four-page map showing 2012 election results by zip code, and an article describing election maps created since the late 1800s. See

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another article to read. It's focus is that we should not stereotype people in rural America as one size fits all.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another article showing intense poverty in different parts of US.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's an article showing potential of wind energy technologies to bring jobs and income to high poverty communities in rural areas.