Just how real is the urban-rural divide? Does it matter? Our Friday Roundup looks at the question.

The “urban-rural divide” has become a standard touchstone in discussions of economics, politics and culture. It’s shorthand for identifying that major metros have more in common with each other than they do with the countryside surrounding them.

The Seattle metro area is not like Central Washington or the Olympic Peninsula (or pick any other largely rural part of the state). By the same token, Chicago isn’t like Downstate Illinois; the Twin Cities aren’t like the Iron Range; New York City isn’t upstate New York; and so on. 

It’s an easy concept to grasp. But what does it tell us about divisions in our state and nation? What does it suggest to you? Please scroll to the bottom to let us know your views.

We’ve written about it often.

Just this year, for example, we published a series of posts exploring the differences and what they mean to public policy.

And then this:

Obviously, the subject interests us and, we suspect, it interests you as well. So a report we came across earlier this week sparked us to round up a few brief and recent articles that suggest additional complexity.

There’s a persistent narrative that President Trump’s values are rural ones, while city-dwellers support the “urban” values of democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez… At first glance, the “urban-rural” divide seems reasonable. But the data don’t support this geographic line of thinking…

Urban areas are at the leading edge of racial and ethnic change, with nonwhites now a clear majority of the population in urban counties while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. In contrast, rural counties have made only minimal gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.

At the same time, urban and rural communities are becoming increasingly different from each other politically. Adults in urban counties, long aligned with the Democratic Party, have moved even more to the left in recent years, and today twice as many urban voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic as affiliate with the Republican Party. For their part, rural adults have moved more firmly into the Republican camp. More than half (54%) of rural voters now identify with or lean to the GOP, while 38% are Democrats or lean Democratic.

More than 61 percent of voters cast ballots in counties that gave either Clinton or Trump at least 60 percent of the major-party vote last November. That’s up from 50 percent of voters who lived in such counties in 2012 and 39 percent in 1992 — an accelerating trend that confirms that America’s political fabric, geographically, is tearing apart.

Of the nation’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), just 303 were decided by single-digit margins — less than 10 percent. In contrast, 1,096 counties fit that description in 1992…

For all the ways Americans are divided today along urban and rural lines, the two groups are at least united in this: Majorities of both, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, believe that everyone else is looking down on them.

That pattern suggests a particularly troubling dimension to age-old distinctions between city and rural life. Differences in where and how Americans choose to live, which increasingly overlap with politics, are imbued with judgments about each other — and suspicion that others are negatively judging us.

We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today.

National League of Cities: Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide

In a challenge to the conventional narrative, Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide finds that stronger links between urban and rural areas are key to spurring local, regional and state economic growth.

By examining four key areas — broadband access, educational attainment, high-value business growth and prosperity growth — the report offers policymakers glimpses into policy and program opportunities to bridge the urban-rural divide. 

It’s time for the narrative to change from urban vs. rural to a shared economic future. 

…a close look at the data shows that urban and rural America are not as distant, economically or geographically, as the rhetoric may suggest.

So, now it’s your turn.

  1. Thank you for your input!