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America's Rural/Urban Divide: A Special Series

How governments respond to the widening rift between rural and urban America can either help bridge the gap or drive the country down an even more divergent path.

For the first time in history, more people worldwide live in cities than outside them. Across the globe, urban areas add more than 60 million new residents every year. In the United States, of course, the rural-to-urban tipping point happened generations ago. Today, nearly 80 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas). But it’s a demographic shift that’s ongoing.

It’s the age of urban ascendance. But it’s also an age of urban/rural discord. In an ever-flatter world, big cities often identify more with urban counterparts halfway across the globe than they do with rural leaders just down the road. Chicago woos jobs from Shanghai, but may not coordinate with small towns in downstate Illinois. Boston aligns itself more with Berlin and Beijing than with the Berkshires.

There’s always been a gulf between rural and urban America. But that rift is widening -- in politics, in funding, in economic mobility, on social issues. How government leaders respond to that rift can either help bridge the gap between cities and rural areas, or drive the country down an even more divergent and potentially debilitating path.


Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power

Rural lawmakers are dwindling in number as people continue to migrate to metropolitan areas. But the battle between urban and rural politics is as big as ever -- and those out in the country may be winning. Read More.



Can Cities and Rural Counties Come Together? 

Recent political battles have highlighted the decades-old divide between urban and rural areas, making groups that occupy a middle ground more necessary than ever. Read More.



Rural Hospitals Are on Life Support

Hospitals may be rural America’s single most important and endangered institution. Between having to serve some of the sickest and most expensive populations and federal cuts, can small town America save more from closing? Read More.



Why Do Cash-Strapped Governments Have Rich Citizens?

Boom times in oil and agriculture have brought new wealth to people in many rural counties. But the money in bank accounts is not translating into more money for government. Read more and view an interactive map of personal income data by county.


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