Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fundamentals of Rural Stereotyping

- from the desk of Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

Fundamentals of Rural Stereotyping

Forget the idyllic picture of rural America; look instead at the individuality, innovation,and creativity taking place in our changing rural society

The myth of what is rural and what is not seems to be growing. We often lament the demise of rural America and the associated problems. Perhaps our biggest problem is that we – the people who live in rural areas – don’t understand what we are dealing with.

First, there is really no such thing as rural America. Each rural community in America is uniquely different. Our popular notion of a Norman Rockwell painting often clouds the great diversity that many rural communities harbor.

It is too easy to generalize from one visit to one particular rural place. Each rural community contributes to a rural average, but none is any more likely than the next to be “typically” rural.

One myth about rural places is that they offer a safe haven from problems that only exist in urban areas. While it is true that rates of violent crime and drug use tend to be a little lower in rural areas than in cities, the gap is closing. What we need to understand as we work with rural development is that rural society is changing.

Another interesting myth is stereotyping of the “brain drain” taking place in rural areas.The only fact related to this notion is the depopulation occurring in many rural areas. This has more to do with perceived opportunities and education than with a “brain drain.”

Indeed, some of the people who choose to live in smaller rural communities are extremely bright, entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative. Survival in these communities often needs these traits to flourish and bloom.

This is a critical time for rural development and keeping focus on this way of life. What we don’t need is to generalize everyone’s situation into a neat package and call it rural America.
Instead, we need to look at each community and develop policy accordingly. We can then put an action plan into use that enhances the assets each community brings to the very meaning and distinction of the word “rural.”

for more informatin contact: Michael L. Holton, or 402.687.2103 x 1015

Sign up for our new weekly “Rural Community Revitalization Conversation” with Michael Holton, premiering this month.

The conversation will take place here on the Center’s web log

Send an email to to indicate your interest or visit the blog and participate.


  • At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I do not think that most rural stereotypes are about idyllic life. East and West coast urbanites (and yes, that includes DC) think people that live in rural America are too stupid to get out and live some where decent. Stereotypes about rural life are about people that live here being ignorant and unsophisticated. I get sick of those attitudes but they exist and are real, and need to be challenged.

  • At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not all stereotypes are negative. Rural people also are seen as physically hardy from outdoor activity and as psychologically self-sufficient. Instead of getting caught up in debunking myths, it makes more sense to me to focus on the heterogeneity of people, culture, and lifestyles that exist in rural America.

  • At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Clenbuterol said…

    I wonder how many percent from American population do live in in the countryside?

  • At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Felipe said…

    Life in the rural areas can still be quiet and peaceful especially given access to modern technologies and easy communication


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