Rural American towns have the worst socioeconomic conditions in the country, according to several data points highlighted in a Friday report from The Wall Street Journal.
Rural areas and small towns now lead the nation in teenage birth rates, divorce rates, adults without a college degree, males 16 and older without jobs, median age, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality. The report also noted that in 2013 deaths outnumbered births in a majority of rural counties, something that hasn’t occurred since the 1930s.
The Wall Street Journal article focused on Kenton, Ohio the seat of Hardin County.
Since 1980, the poverty rate of county residents has increased by 45 percent and the area is now inundated with crime. Brad Bailey, a prosecutor in the county, told the Journal that drug cases now account for 80 percent of criminal cases. They used to only account for less than 20 percent of cases.
The Kenton police chief, Linda Martell, said this has led to a surge of stolen items being sold for scrap metal.
This all represents a downturn for a region of the country that had good job opportunities and low crime throughout the middle and later portion of 20th century. Many expected that with the advent of the internet people could work from small towns, but this hasn’t occurred. Rhonda Vannoster of Independence, Kansas told the Journal that “there just aren’t a lot of good jobs.”
The average wage is one third higher for people living in areas with over 250,000 workers than those living in more sparsely populated counties.