The purpose of the "Life in Rural America" survey was to better understand the views and experiences of rural Americans on economic and health issues in their local communities.
Split views on rural life and livelihoods
Most respondents in rural America are optimistic, saying their lives have turned out as expected (42%) or better than expected (41%). They report high job satisfaction (93%), including 59 percent who are very satisfied. But to keep jobs or find a better job in the future, a significant share (34%) of rural Americans believe it will be important to get new training or skills—including computer and technical skills (25%) or a more advanced degree or certificate (24%). This may be due in part to a significant number of young people having left rural America (according to 43% of parents), mostly for job opportunities elsewhere (61% to cities). In contrast to positive personal employment experiences, about half of rural Americans (55%) rate their local economy as fair or poor. Over the past five years, about a third of rural Americans say that the economy in the region where they live and work has gotten better, compared to those who say it has gotten worse (21%).
Rural community values and outlooks for the future
Most respondents say their community’s biggest strengths are: feeling attached to their local community (81% feel very or somewhat attached); relationships with neighbors (50%); life in a small town (21%); and being around good people (11%). When asked about the most important reason they choose to live in their local community, about one-third of rural adults say it is because of their family.
Rural Americans are largely optimistic about the future, as most say the number of good jobs in their local community will stay the same or increase in the next five years. About half of rural Americans (51%) report confidence that major problems facing their communities will be solved in the next five years.
Overall, the "Life in Rural America" survey illustrates that rural Americans have strong ties to their local communities and value life, family, and jobs. However, rural Americans also cite significant challenges for their local communities, such as money/financial problems (27%) and health and health care (16%) challenges. They cite drug addiction/abuse (25%) and improving troubled local economies (21%) as the top problems they will face in the future. While rural Americans are confident that major problems facing their local communities can be solved within the next five years, a majority say they need outside help to solve these problems.
About the survey
In summer 2018, researchers interviewed 1,300 rural adults age 18 years and older living in the rural United States. The sampling of respondents contains, by U.S region: South (42%), Midwest (32%), Appalachia (19%); by race/ethnicity: white (78%), black (8%), Latino (8%), with other race/ethnicities not statistically significant; by age: 50+ years old (55%) and 18–49 years old (44%).