The Service Sector
Both nationally and in rural America, the service sector is the fastest growing sector in the economy. It is also the least understood, which is unfortunate because its role in creating jobs and enhancing the quality of life may make it a prime component of rural development policies.
Other chapters in this volume consider specific service industries (such as health and government); we therefore cast a broader net here, examining trends and background concepts that are common among service industries and that distinguish the service sector from the rest of the economy. Next we raise issues underlying the service sector's rural roles. If (as is likely) the service sector continues to grow, how may rural economies and the other aspects of rural life be affected? What problems, opportunities, and choices does this pose for government decision makers? Finally, we explore how changing service technologies and transport cost may influence rural access to services.
I am indebted to members of the Future of Rural America Advisory Group, and also to my Rand colleagues Brent Bradley, Will Harriss, and Barbara Quint for their helpful comments. Preparation of this paper was supported by the Farmers Home Administration, the Rand Corporation, and grant number P-50-HD12639 awarded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, U.S. Public Health Service.