Cities are where the jobs are. Where the money is, where opportunity is found, and where housing costs are beyond reach for many workers. Rural counties with no town larger than 50,000 are in a downward spiral. As people with ambition leave, jobs also leave, the tax base shrivels, and attitudes harden among those who remain.
A boom in some extractive industry, like gas or oil, or mining for metals, will keep an area alive, but it can be disruptive and leaves an area worse off when it cools off.
Is there a way to create jobs that support the populations and markets in the cities without having people move there? Can the vibrant social mileu of cities connect to rural areas?
For now, even with growing connectivity and techniques for telecommuting there seems no replacing the value of real presence, pf people being in the same physical space. Apparently, for the bulk of economic and social activity, meatspace rules.
Is there an answer in easier/cheaper travel? Housing costs are very low in places with declining population. But the money, jobs, and good times are elsewhere.
I returned to Van Buren County at the end of 2017 after 20 years living on the East Coast, most recently in the Washington area, because I’m writing a book about Clinton, Van Buren’s county seat. My partner and I knew it would be a challenge: The county is very remote, very religious and full of Trump voters, and we suspected we’d stand out because of our political beliefs.
Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor.
Most Americans live in cities, but our political system gives rural areas like Van Buren outsize voting power. My time here makes me believe that the impeachment scandal will not hurt Mr. Trump — and that Democrats who promise to make the lives of people like my neighbors better might actually help him.