Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Rural America Is Lagging Behind

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Rural America Is Lagging Behind

Article excerpt

In July 2015, 14 percent of Americans lived in rural parts of the country - 46.2 million people. Although we constantly hear about social and economic problems in cities, we shouldn't forget that many of the people who live in rural America are suffering as well.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a new report on drug overdose deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015, and it found that the rural overdose death rate is higher than it is in urban areas: 17 per 100,000 versus 16.2 per 100,000. Rural parts of the country have been outpacing urban areas on this measure since 2006, and this is on top of an overall increase in overdose deaths across the U.S.

According to a study recently released by the University of Michigan, opioid abuse has become particularly severe in rural America.

When babies are exposed to opioids in the womb, they're "more likely to have seizures, low birth weight, breathing, sleeping and feeding problems." This condition is called neonatal abstinence syndrome, and it has risen dramatically in rural areas over the past few years. While there was an average of only one case of neonatal abstinence syndrome per 1,000 births between 2003 and 2004, this spiked to 7.5 per 1,000 births from 2012 to 2013. In 2012, the rural rate was 70 percent higher than the rate in urban areas.

And it isn't just rates of drug abuse - there are many other measures that illuminate problems in the more remote parts of the U.S. In 2015, the rural poverty rate was 16.7 percent, while the rates in urban and suburban areas were 13 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, median earnings across a range of industries were higher in urban areas. And as rates of population and employment have spiked in cities, they have been almost static in rural areas. The total urban population grew by almost 8 percent between 2007 and 2015, while the rural population only saw a 0. …

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