In this brief, authors Rebecca Glauber and Andrew Schaefer provide a glimpse of the economic and demographic characteristics of life in the rural United States. Using data from the American Community Survey, they compare those living in low- and lower-middle-income counties to those living in upper-middle- and high-income counties. Additionally, they compare counties at the extremes, where median incomes are in the bottom and top 10 percent of the income distribution. They report that nearly 75 percent of low-income rural counties in the United States are in the South. Compared to lower-income rural counties, higher-income rural counties have a larger share of immigrants but a smaller share of non-native speakers. One-fifth of immigrants in low-income rural counties do not speak English, compared to just one-twentieth of immigrants in high-income rural counties. People living in poorer rural counties rely more heavily than those living in more well-off rural counties on public-sector supports, and they are less likely to work. Although policy makers tend to focus on people living in the urban United States, the authors’ results show that those living in the rural United States, and particularly in low-income counties, may have even more to gain from public health insurance and other social safety-net programs.

Publication Date

Fall 9-7-2017


National Issue Brief No. 126


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2017. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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