RSS Position Statements

Rural Sociological Society Executive Council

Statement on Reclassification of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas

Writing in our capacity as leaders in the Rural Sociological Society (RSS) – a professional association promoting the generation, application, and dissemination of knowledge – this letter documents concerns over the Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)regarding proposed changes in delineating metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. We express these concerns along with colleagues from other social science organizations and networks, especially members of the W4001 Multistate Project Social, Economic and Environmental Causes and Consequences of Demographic Change in Rural America.

The RSS Executive Council’s overarching concern is the need to have consistency in geographic and population concepts and definitions in order to accurately monitor, track, and interpret population change. This is critical for achieving good science and informing public policy. The changes proposed to the OMB would limit the ability to make sense of changes between and within metropolitan and nonmetropolitan people and places. Listed below are specific criticisms.


FROM THE RSS President – October 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

There is no sugar-coating it. This year for the RSS -- and I am sure for you as well -- has been unlike any other. We are now more than six months into a global pandemic that has taken the lives of 1,000,000 people, and over 200,000 in the United States alone. There is still no end in sight as we continue to self-isolate while worrying about our family, friends, neighbors and communities, as economies contract, job losses mount, and insecurity grows. In the last few weeks we’ve witnessed climate change-related fires, storms, and floods of almost unimaginable scale, while we continue to face the ongoing trauma of racism and brutality within our communities. And all this is occurring at the same moment that the system of democracy within the United States and elsewhere appears as profoundly uncertain and destabilized as it has been in generations. These are profoundly uncertain, and if we are to be honest, deeply unsettling times. I hope you are all taking care of yourselves, your communities, and each other.



The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) requires the Decennial Census for apportioning representatives in our national government, and the Decennial Census has been taking place since 1790. These data are also used for drawing political districts at multiple levels of government, from the local and state to the federal. Census data are used as the basis for a range of other statistics, including population estimates, population projections, and rates of diseases and other health concerns. Furthermore, Census data are used to determine the allocation of funding and to make eligibility decisions for programs addressing health, food assistance, education, workforce development, housing, infrastructure, and environmental protection, just to name a few.

At the start of the 2020 data collection period, it looked like a good year for participation in the Census. The hard work of complete count committees combined with numerous agencies, nonprofits, churches, and businesses working along with Census Bureau staff was proving successful in early self-participation rates. However, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Census efforts in numerous ways, including:

o    Diverted attention and resources from the Census process;

o    Slowed hiring and forced many Census Bureau staff members to work remotely;

o    Made many people temporarily leave their usual place of residence;

o    Halted public outreach and community engagement activities; and,

o    Resulted in alternative 2020 Census timelines.


Statement from The Rural Sociological Society Leadership on the Murder of George Floyd and the U.S. Protests

The leadership of Rural Sociological Society extends its profound concern, empathy, and support to all of our members as we absorb the pain of the national trauma unfolding around us, within our cities, and within our communities. We hope you are staying safe and taking care of yourselves and your families. We share your sorrow, your frustration, and your anger. We also share your concern and worry for the health and safety of family, friends, neighbors, and communities, and indeed for the well-being and democratic integrity of our nation. We recognize too that many of us in the RSS embody identities, racial and otherwise, that mark us firsthand for experiences of marginalization, oppression, and exclusion. We signal particular solidarity with you. We hear you, we love you, we stand with you, and we reach out to you as we collectively try to reconcile and respond to these profoundly disturbing times.

The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, and the ensuing national and global protests, represent not simply the logical conclusion to the racist killings of black and brown people over the last months and years, but indeed the 400-year legacy of racist violence, subjugation, deep structural inequalities, and white supremacy threaded throughout this country’s history. The protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been met, in turn, by heavily militarized police, often acting with little hesitation to disperse protesters by violent means, while simultaneously arresting and detaining journalists. They are abetted by a president with little compunction about meting out violent suppression of popular resistance while characterizing protestors as “terrorists.” This response, both by militarized police and by government at the highest levels, only reaffirms in the minds of those at the receiving end of the tear gas and rubber bullets that the value of their lives pales in comparison to the value of an increasingly fragile social and economic status quo.

The broad patterns and implications of racism and white supremacy within American society are impossible to deny. As rural sociologists we recognize how our own discipline was borne out of and flourished within land grant institutions sited on stolen lands. And we recognize as well how professional norms of the social sciences and academia in general continue to marginalize scholars of color, silence indigenous voices, and/or further colonialist and racist agendas. As a Society, we too have serious work to do as we reflect on how our own professional norms and practices may have excluded, silenced, or otherwise marginalized others.

And yet, rural sociology is at the same time a discipline fundamentally and historically informed by deep concern for inequality, inequities, and marginality, both between people and across time and place. Our concerns have been deeply enriched by thinkers like W. E. B. Du Bois whose work was groundbreaking in American sociology for its attempts to provide the “emancipatory empiricism” informing equitable social policies and improved conditions for rural Black Americans. The work of rural sociologists, shaped by deep ethical, moral and social concerns, has actively informed national dialogue on social justice and the intersections between social and spatial marginality, and it will continue to do so.