NCERA218: Health, well-being, and economic opportunity for LGBT persons in rural communities

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

NCERA218: Health, well-being, and economic opportunity for LGBT persons in rural communities

Duration: 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Rural environments host a diverse range of LGBT persons, citing a variety of reasons for rural life. Census data has documented the presence of same-sex couples in 93% of all US counties (Gates & Cook, 2010) and Gallup Poll data has documented that LGBT people constitute between 1.7% and 10% of every state’s population (Gates & Newport, 2013). Despite the prevalence and diversity of LGBT persons in rural environments, there exists a continuing “urban bias” in the cultural views of rurality and heteronormativity, focus of research, and political momentum oriented towards LGBT persons. In part, urban bias contributes to the notion that sexual minorities do not belong in rural areas and thus should flock to urban enclaves and assimilate into gay communities and culture (Boso, 2012). Also, the presumption that LGBT people belong in cities still has a heavy influence on cultural views. Therefore, LGBT people living in rural areas still face the urban bias that life for sexual minorities is better in the city and how that cultural view affects identity formation, may contribute to internalized homophobia or degrees in which people feel comfortable about their outness.

Outmigration may put rural communities at risk of homogeneity. When ecological systems are more diverse a broader range of resources are available to respond to changes in the environment. Therefore, valuing the diversity of citizens within social systems will allow rural communities to be better equipped to respond to the economic and social challenges they face. According to Badgett (2014), the social inclusion of LGBT people can strengthen communities by increasing economic productivity and innovation, improving health, and building social capital (see also Florida, 2014). However, when rural communities do not embrace diversity, minority stress theory posits that LGBT people may experience stigma-based (“minority”) stressors in addition to normative stressors. The additional stressors contribute to increased risk for mental and physical health disparities among LGBT people. For instance, LGB people have 1.5 times higher the risk of depression and anxiety disorders than heterosexuals (King et al. 2008). According to Meyer, minority stressors arise from circumstances in the environment that promote anti-LGBT stigma. Understanding the specific minority stressors that rural LGBT face is necessary to improve the lives of rural LGBT individuals and families. The increased health issues related to stigma and minority stress create a disproportionate burden to rural communities. Therefore, improving the health, well-being and economic opportunities for LGBT people in rural communities would increase human capital for all citizens to be contributing and flourishing members of society.


  1. Define the research vision by establishing a baseline with the current state of research on health, well-being, and economic opportunity for LGBT persons in rural communities, highlighting the intersection of rurality and sexual/gender minority status as an important area of inquiry, articulating the next most important research questions, describing the vision of future research with goals spanning 5-10 years, and coordinating a special issue of a journal.
    Comments: Each participating state may achieve these objectives differently (e.g., data collection, community outreach, extension). For instance, one state may decide to collect data with LGBT stakeholders and community members within rural communities, analyze data, and generate reports regarding health, well-being and economic opportunity whereas another state may achieve these objectives through community outreach and education through workshops.
  2. Develop infrastructure by holding annual meetings for researchers to gather and share resources, knowledge, experience and expertise; allowing for researchers to communicate across objectives, provide a consulting community, and allow for collaboration.
    Comments: The researchers will develop assessment protocols and sampling strategies, research sharing agreement templates, guidelines for shared projects, a repository of developed instruments, a shared literature database, and develop a system for sharing findings, including mechanisms in which resources can be shared with Extension/Outreach educators.
  3. Translation will be achieved by having an annual outreach activity in conjunction with our annual meeting that will focus on community focused presentations and dissemination of outreach products.
    Comments: Extension educators will be invited for community-focused presentations during the annual meeting. In addition, researchers will disseminate outreach products (e.g. fact sheets, research reports, literature summaries, curricular components) to stakeholders in rural communities, state and federal policy makers, and the scientific community. Researchers will also work with stakeholders to apply the findings in support of community viability and create a set of resources that communities can use.
  4. Create a pipeline throughout the project to expand research, teaching, extension/outreach, and community engagement that will be ongoing.
    Comments: Researchers will develop networks that bridge faculty members and students at land grant universities or colleges, extension or outreach educations, and community leaders/organizations that are committed to bettering the health and well-being of rural sexual minorities. The researchers will create the pipeline by encouraging involvement of undergraduate students, creating opportunities for graduate students, and offer mentoring and guidance for junior faculty (e.g., student component at annual meetings, mentorship day).

Procedures and Activities

  1. The Coordinating Committee will finalize a review of the extant literature focused on LGBT persons in rural communities. This manuscript will be submitted to the Journal of Rural Studies, will define the state of the field and questions for the field focused on LGBT persons in rural communities. Each state representative will contribute to the resultant research questions in unique ways, allowing for a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to address the full set of research questions. State-level research projects will be documented and shared via the spreadsheet discussed in procedure 3, and results of these projects will be shared regularly with members of the Coordinating Committee in order to achieve the objectives in a collective manner and identify ways in which findings can be applied or studied in other areas.
  2. The Coordinating Committee will meet annually, or more often as needed, to gather and share resources, knowledge, experience and expertise. The Coordinating Committee will also create and share a Dropbox with its members that includes sample protocols and sampling strategies, research sharing agreement templates, guidelines for shared projects, and a repository of developed instruments. Further, Mendeley, a shared literature database, will allow for easy sharing of literature across group members.  A website will be developed for easy sharing of materials with community stakeholders (discussed more in procedure 3).
  3. Translation of the research will be unique to each project, as well as a joint outreach at each annual meeting. In order to translate the research produced through our state projects, we will develop a spreadsheet of each research question, project and associated translational product(s), identifying the stakeholder population of interest for each product. These products and additional resources to promote community viability and well-being for rural LGBT individuals and families will be available for public use through a website.
  4. The researchers will create the pipeline by encouraging involvement of undergraduate students, creating opportunities for graduate students, and offer mentoring and guidance for junior faculty (e.g., student component at annual meetings, mentorship day).
  5. Collaborative teams for grants will be faciliated through the coordinating committee.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Manuscript for the Journal for Rural Studies
  • Research and practice questions to drive a coordinated and comprehensive multistate research and practice agenda
  • Coordination of a Special Issue of a peer-reviewed journal by 2020
  • Translational products and educational materials that can be adapted for specific community stakeholders and organizations
  • Outreach projects regarding LGBT rural individuals and families
  • List of experts in areas related to LGBT rural families in each state represented on the committee
  • Online professional development module(s) for professionals working in rural communities (e.g. Extension Educators) that would result in a certification or ongoing professional development opportunities that could be managed by existing professional development programs
  • Possible impacts include increased opportunities for discussion of LGBT issues in rural communities and increased knowledge of professionals and other stakeholders working with LGBT persons in rural communities

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

We will be providing education each year to extension professionals and other key community stakeholders. Each year we will provide and promote our outreach in the state of the coordinating committee meeting, thus maximizing the spread of our reach. Our plans for professional development and a web portal will provide access to resources and trainings within states that are not present during the annual committee meeting. We will build capacity in service organizations to build equality in service delivery. We will also provide presentations to the members of the target populations and include their participation in strategic professional development programs and other online professional development programs. Other outputs such as fact sheets and journal articles will be produced.


The governance of this project includes the election of a Chair, Communications Coordinator, and a Meeting Coordinator. Elections will be held during each annual meeting. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

Badgett, M.V. Lee; Nezhad, Sheila; Waaldijk, Kees; & van der Meulen Rodgers, Yana. (2014). The Relationship between LGBT Inclusion and Economic Development: An Analysis of Emerging Economies. The Williams Institute. UCLA: The Williams Institute. Retrieved from:

Boso, L. A. (2012). Urban bias, rural sexual minorities, and the courts. UCLA L. Rev., 60, 562.

Florida, R. (2014). The global map of homophobia. The Atlantic Cities. Retrieved from

Gates, G, & Cook, A. (2010). United States: Census snapshot 2010. Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, UCLA College of Law.

Gates, G., & Newport, F. (2013, February). Gallup special report: New estimates of the LGBT population in the United States.

King, M., Semlyen, J., Tai, S., Killaspy, H., Osborn, D., Popelyuk, D., & Nazareth, I. (2008). A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self-harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people. BMC Psychiatry, 8(1), 10. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-8-70


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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