Feb 26, 2020 - Economy & Business

Rural America's meager business growth

Expand chart
Reproduced from Center for American Progress; Chart: Axios Visuals

The growth of small businesses has been concentrated in big cities and urban suburbs since the Great Recession, while nearly all rural areas have experienced substantial loss of businesses in the past decade.

Why it matters: "Firm growth is a crucial part of economic development, and business creation has been critical in the aftermath of previous recessions. But policies geared toward encouraging startups have not been effective in rural areas, leading to a growing regional divide," per a new report by the Center for American Progress.

  • Southern rural areas have seen the highest levels of business deaths, with African American communities bearing the brunt of economic decline.
  • Small businesses in the South and rural middle America have been battered by growing consolidation in the agriculture industry, leading to communities being dominated by a single company.

Yes, but: Some pockets of rural America are seeing business growth, even though it pales in comparison to larger cities.

  • Graying America communities are generally recreation-dependent. These communities are located in large states such as Florida, Texas and California.
  • Many Hispanic centers are mining-dependent, especially in the oil and gas industry.
  • Latter-day Saint enclaves in Utah have large youth populations and less population loss than other rural communities.

Between the lines: In rural America, the small business decline is tied to population decline. There's little point in setting up shop in a town with few potential customers.

  • Some have opened their doors to immigrants to increase their populations and generate more small business demand in agriculture, manufacturing, health care and tourism.
  • There's sometimes a "trust gap" to overcome in rural towns where locals tend to be skeptical of newcomers, said CAP senior economist Olugbenga Ajilore, author of the report. Social infrastructure could help bridge that gap, particularly for new migrants.

What's needed: Policymakers should consider expanding the capacity of community business development corporations or co-ops to support rural towns, which are also dealing with other problems like opioid use, hospital closures and unemployment, per CAP.

"Instead of federal government parachuting in and saying, 'Here’s what you need to do,' they should come and say, 'What are you doing and how can we help you do it better?"' said Ajilore.

Go deeper: The disappearing startup

Go deeper

Rural residents' access to health care amid coronavirus

Jen Lingo, R.N., walks a resident of the assisted living center in Dayton General Hospital back to her room. Dayton, a small town in rural southeast Washington, has an aging population, had its first positive test for Coronavirus and is waiting on results of more tests. Photo: Nick Otto for the Washington Post

The novel coronavirus can spread faster in densely populated cities than in rural areas, but rural America has a higher-risk population and fewer safety-net programs for people who get sick.

By the numbers: Rural residents are, overall, older than urban dwellers and are therefore more susceptible to this virus. Per Census Bureau data, 17.5% of the rural population is 65 or older.

Go deeperArrowMar 18, 2020 - Health

Democratic health care debate topics finally expand past Medicare for All

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Democrats finally debated health care subjects other than Medicare for All on Tuesday night.

Why it matters: We have a much wider range of health care problems than political debates usually suggest. Discussing rural Americans' lack of access to health care may not be as exciting as debating whether to do away with private insurance, but it's a subject that many voters struggle with every day.

Go deeperArrowFeb 26, 2020 - Health

Rural areas see short-term rental boom amid coronavirus spread

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While the travel industry and accommodations are taking a major hit amid the coronavirus pandemic, short-term rentals in U.S. rural (and suburban, to a less extent) areas are seeing an uptick, according to new data from AirDNA.

The big picture: People are fleeing densely populated areas, especially on the coasts, and taking up shelter in isolated rentals in rural and more "destination" type of locales.