You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

A new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce challenges the common public perception that rural America and its working adults are being left behind economically.

The findings, released Thursday, show that although rural America has a strong blue-collar economy and can provide opportunity for people without a bachelor’s degree, it still needs more investment in postsecondary education, training and career counseling.

“Rural Americans often feel deeply connected to their communities, but they are increasingly faced with the hard choice of moving to urban areas or staying in rural areas where they have fewer professional and educational opportunities,” Anthony P. Carnevale, the center’s director, said in a press release. “Rural America needs more strategies and investment to hold onto its good jobs and create more economic opportunity.”

According to the report, working adults in rural areas of the country are almost as likely (50 percent) as peers in urban areas (54 percent) to have a “good job,” or one that pays at least $43,000 for workers ages 25 to 44 or $55,000 for workers ages 45 to 64. 

The findings also show that there are approximately 7.4 million rural residents who currently hold a “good job,” and they make up about 13 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

But the report also showed that work opportunities aren’t equitable for everyone. Although white workers make up the majority of the rural workforce (81 percent), they hold a disproportionate share of the good jobs (86 percent). A similar pattern exists among gender groups; men make up just 52 percent of the rural workforce but hold 63 percent of the good jobs.

To continue stimulating economic growth and establish greater equity in middle-class job opportunities in rural areas, the report recommends:

  • Implementation of more comprehensive counseling services in K-12 schools and colleges to help students make informed decisions about their career pathways.
  • Establishment of training programs geared toward women and members of underserved racial and ethnic groups.
  • Authorization of community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees and consider offering free training programs to help combat rural education deserts.
  • Development of high school–to–career pipelines that train workers to fill local jobs that do not require four-year degrees.
  • Optimization of emerging sectors of the renewable energy industry to bring new jobs and additional federal funds to rural communities.