Focus Rural America
A Research and Policy Brief Series by RSS Members

In August 2019, Kai Schafft, President of RSS proposed that the Rural Sociological Society engage in a yearlong research and policy brief series to coincide with the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. The goal of the series was to increase the visibility of the Society and the work of its members in national debates regarding policies and issues that affect rural people, places and communities. Little did we know at the time that the world would also face a global health crisis. The 2020 election has passed but rural America still faces a myriad of issues including the coronavirus that require national attention.

We continue to encourage rural sociologists to make us aware of their research and policy briefs as they are published, and we encourage members to consider publishing through venues like The Conversation and The Daily Yonder. RSS will continue to highlight the work of Society members on various rural issues here.  Let us know if you have recently authored research or policy briefs that we can feature to provide greater visibility to your work.   

Agriculture and Food

Elizabeth Ransom, E. Melanie DuPuis, and Michelle Worosz. Why farmers are dumping milk down the drain and letting produce rot in fields (April 2020)

Anna Kleiner, John Green, Anne Cafer, Meagen Rosenthal, Lynn Woo, and Caroline Steil. Providing Food Assistance in a Pandemic: Views and Lessons Learned from the Frontlines in Northwest Mississippi (Oct. 2020)


Community, Health, and Family

Shoshanah Inwood, Andrea Rissing, and Florence Becot. Young Farmers Struggle With Child Care and Health Insurance – and that can threaten the future of family farms (May 2021)

Alexander Chapman, Ashton M. Verdery, and Shannon M. Monnat. Family Ties Protect Against Opioid Misuse Among U.S. Young Adults (March 2021)

Douglas A. Wolf, Shannon M. Monnatt, and Jennifer Karas Montez. Allowing Cities to Raise the Minimum Wage Could Prevent Hundreds of Infant Deaths Annually (January 2021)

Mary Katherine A. Schutt and Shannon M. Monnatt. The Sugar Industry Gets Rich and We Get Sick (January 2021)

Kenneth Johnson. Health Conditions and an Older Population Increase COVID-19 Risks in Rural America (August 2020)

Lawrence Hamilton and Thomas Safford. Conservative Media Consumers Less Likely to Wear Masks and Less Worried about COVID-19 (Sept. 2020)

Aysha Bodenhamer. Prevention Failures and the Resurgence of Black Lung in Central Appalachia (July 2020)

Danielle Rhubart, Shannon M. Monnat, and Yue Sun. Rural Ohio Faces High Health Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic (July 2020)

Shannon M. Monnat, and Yue Sun. New York State’s Rural Counties Have Higher COVID-19 Mortality Risk (July 2020)

Raeven Faye Chandler, Shannon M. Monnat, and Yue Sun. High COVID-19 Mortality Risks in Pennsylvania’s Rural Counties (July 2020)

David J. Peters. Rural America is more vulnerable to COVID-19 than cities are, and it’s starting to show (June 2020)

John Green. Broadband Subscriptions Vary in Mississippi. Implications for the COVID-19 Era (May 2020)

Parks and Jamiko Deleveaux. Health Risks for COVID-19 in Mississippi Counties (April 2020)

Ann Cafer and Meagen Rosenthal. Coronavirus is spreading through Rural South’s High-Risk Population – Reopening Economies Will Make It Worse (April 2020)

David J. Peters. Rural Areas Face Higher and Distinct Risks of Serious COVID-19 Outcomes than Urban Areas (April 2020)

Anne Cafer and Meagan Rosenthal. COVID-19 in the Rural South. A Perfect Storm of Disease, Health Access, and Co-Morbidity (April 2020)

John Green. Population 65 Years and Older Varies by Region and Non-Metro Status in Mississippi. Implications for COVID-19 (April 2020)

Kenneth Johnson. An Older Population Increases Estimated COVID-19 Death Rates in Rural America (April 2020)

Shannon M. Monnat and Kent Jason G. Cheng. Geographic Disparities in COVID-19 Testing. An Urgent Call to Action (April 2020)

Thomas Safford and Lawrence Hamilton. Views of a Fast-Moving Pandemic. A Survey of Granite Staters’ Responses to COVID-19 (April, 2020)

Shannon Monnat. Why Coronavirus Could Hit Rural Areas Harder (March 2020)

Lawrence Hamilton and Thomas Safford. Ideology Affects Trust in Science Agencies During a Pandemic (March, 2020)

Kenneth Johnson. The Spatial Distribution of New Hampshire’s Older Population Complicates Health Care Delivery During the Coronavirus Epidemic (March 2020)

Shannon Monnat. The Opioid Crisis in Rural and Small Town America (June 2018)

Shannon Monnat. Drug Overdose Rates are Highest in Places with the Most Economic and Family Distress (March 2018)


Natural Resources and the Environment

Roberta Nilson, David Kay, and Richard Stedman. Challenges of Large-Scale Solar Electric Siting in New York State. Part II, The Evolving Permitting Process (July 2020)

David Kay, Roberta Nilson, and Richard Stedman. Challenges of Large-Scale Solar Electric Siting in New York State (May 2020)

Matthew Gardner Kelly and Kai A. Schafft. Fracking Has Led to a ‘Bust’ for Pennsylvania School District Finances (January 2020)

Alexis Econie and Michael L. Dougherty. Temporary Workers of the US Recycling Industry (March 2019)

Shawn Olson Hazboun and Hilary Boudet. Companies Blocked from Using West Coast Ports to Export Fossil Fuels Keep Seeking Workarounds (Nov. 2018)

Michael C. Dougherty. Can Mining Produce Development in Central America? (April 2017)

Michael C. Dougherty. El Salvador Makes History (April 2017)



Kenneth M. Johnson. 2020 Census Reflects Lagging U.S. Population (April 2021)

Kenneth M. Johnson. New Hampshire’s Estimated Population Gain is the Largest in New England (December 2020)

Kenneth Johnson. Migration Gains to New Hampshire From Other U.S. States Are Growing (December 2020)

Shannon M. Monnat. The U.S. Rural Mortality Penalty is Wide and Growing (October 2020)

Kenneth Johnson and Daniel Lichter. Is Rural America Failing or Succeeding? Maybe Both (Sept. 2020)

Vanessa Parks. The Critical Role of Social Capital During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lessons from Disaster Research (April, 2020)

John Green, Heather Hanna, Lynn Woo, Rachel Haggard, and Anne Buffington. Using Community Engagement Approaches to Bolster 2020 Census Participation (March, 2020)

Dudley Poston. Students Could Be Undercounted in the Census as Coronavirus Closes Colleges – Here’s Why That Matters (March 2020)

John Green. 2020 Mississippi Kids Count Fact Book (Jan. 2020)

Dudley Poston. 3 Big Ways that the U.S. Will Change Over the Next Decade (January 2020)

Rogelio Saenz and Dudley Poston. Children of Color Already Make Up the Majority of Kids in Many US States (January 2020)

Dudley Poston and Rogelio Sáenz. The U.S. White Majority Will Soon Disappear Forever (April 2019)

John Green. Why the 2020 Census Matters to Rural Americans (April 2019)

Dudley Poston. Adding a Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census Would Cost Some States Their Congressional Seats (March 2019)

Brian Thiede. Six Charts that Illustrate the Divide Between Urban and Rural America (March 2017)

Kenneth Johnson. Where is “Rural America” and What Does it Look Like? (February 2017)

Kenneth Johnson. U.S. Fertility Rate Hits Record Low and Births Continue to Diminish (May 2019)

Kenneth Johnson. Rural America Growing Again Due to Migration Gains (April 2019)

Kenneth Johnson and Daniel Lichter. Rural Depopulation in a Rapidly Urbanizing America (February 2019)


Rural Gender Issues


Rural Policy and Politics

Austin McNeill Brown, and Shannon M. Monnat. The Public Good, Bad Policies, and Tough Times: When Profit and Public Interests Collide (February 2021).

Ann Eisenberg, Jessica A. Shoemaker, and Lisa R. Pruitt. 5 Ways Biden Can Help Rural America Thrive and Bridge the Rural-Urban Divide (January 2021)

Kenneth Johnson and Dante Scala. Biden’s Victory Due to Increased Support Along the Entire Rural-Urban Continuum (November 2020)

Kenneth Johnson and Dante Scala. Voting and Attitudes Along the Red-Blue Urban Continuum (October 2020)

Brian Thiede, David L. Brown, Jaclyn Butler, and Leif Jensen. Income Inequality is Getting Worse in US Urban Areas (April 2020)

Zach Newman and Lisa R. Pruitt. In Housing Crisis, Rural Californians Need Greater Legal Protections and Access to Legal (January 2020)


Rural Poverty


Lisa Pruitt. The Chattering Classes Got the ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Book Wrong – And They’re Getting the Movie Wrong, Too (December 2020)


Anna Kleiner, John Green, Anne Cafer, Meagen Rosenthal, Lynn Woo, and Caroline Steil. Providing Food Assistance in a Pandemic: Views and Lessons Learned from the Frontlines in Northwest Mississippi (October 2020)

Brian Thiede, Hyojung Kim, and Matthew Valasik. Concentrated Poverty Increased in Both Rural and Urban Areas Since 2000, Reversing Declines in the 1990s (November 2017)


Rural Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Kent Jason, G. Cheng, Yue Sun, and Shannon Monnat. Rural COVID-19 Mortality Rates are Highest in Counties with the Largest Percentages of Blacks and Hispanics (Sept. 2020)


Youth, Education, and Rural Vitality

Mara Casey Tieken. School Closures Hit Rural Communities Hard (January 2020)