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, February 02, 2006

Our Rural Children

Taking Care of Our Rural Children

Rural children living in poverty are most likely to be from two-parent families in which both parents work

by Michael L. Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

We have highlighted problems associated with mental health care in rural areas and what some places are doing to lighten the pressure. We know that the charge set before us in rural areas is to become more self sufficient and creative in solving these concerns.

Yet growing poverty seeps our ability and resources to solve these problems. Nationally, we confront poverty largely based on adult statistics. What about the children? Where do they belong in the scale of poverty across the country?

Rural children in poverty are more likely to be from two-parent families and in families where at least one adult works. The reason for this unusual statistic is the quality of jobs, not the quantity of jobs. Frequently rural children in poverty come from two adults in the labor force. Unemployment rates may be lower in rural areas, but many jobs are substandard in pay and are often part-time.

In Nebraska it is estimated that 13.5 percent of rural children live in poverty while 11.3 percent of urban children live in poverty. As disturbingly high as they are, these figures are not indicative of the real picture in rural America.

Two factors tend to disguise rural poverty. First, rural areas lack access to benefits which are much more accessible to residents of metro and urban communities. Secondly, rural residents have been brought up with a set of traditional values that low-income households in rural areas would feel shame in accepting “handouts.”

Another concern in child poverty and well being is the care given when both parents must work to support the household. Where are the children cared for? Most urban families use what is known as center-based care. More than three-fourths of children in urban families are sent to center-based care facilities.

The percentage is opposite in rural areas, with only one-fourth of children sent to qualified center-based care. To top this off, many of the centers that exist in rural areas are often subsidized, and thus they target special populations, leaving working-poor and middle-class families with few choices.

Next month we will look at how South Dakota is attempting to remedy this situation through new and creative financing loan packages especially made for child-care providers and center-based facilities.

agree? disagree? post a question or comment here or
contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


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