W5001: Rural Population Change and Adaptation in the Context of Health, Economic, and Environmental Shocks and Stressors

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

W5001: Rural Population Change and Adaptation in the Context of Health, Economic, and Environmental Shocks and Stressors

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Slow-moving stressors that have manifested over the past 40 years (e.g., population aging, industrial transformation, rising income inequality, affordable housing shortages, infrastructure decay, climate change) and short-term economic, environmental, and public health shocks (e.g., natural disasters, extractive industry booms and busts, the drug overdose crisis, COVID-19) have affected rural people and places differently than their urban counterparts due to greater concentrations of some vulnerable groups, less diversified economies, fewer local services, and cultural differences in rural areas. These shocks and stressors have important implications for human population change - fertility, health and mortality, and migration patterns. Yet, rural places are not monolithic, and we cannot assess problems, develop policies, or deliver adequate services to rural areas without understanding both rural-urban and within-rural variation. The overarching objectives of this 5-year project are to describe recent trends in rural population change and wellbeing; investigate the roles of contemporary health, environmental, and economic shocks and stressors in driving these changes; and identify how communities and institutions adapt to these challenges.

The Need, as Indicated by Stakeholders

The U.S. rural population is changing in size, composition, and structure. Population aging is occurring more rapidly in rural than in urban areas, rural areas are home to larger shares of older and sicker people, and rural-urban and within-rural disparities in health and mortality are large and growing. Rural areas are also depopulating, raising questions about the implications for the people and places left behind. However, the rural U.S. is diverse in racial/ethnic, age, and economic composition, health and wellbeing, and infrastructure. Indeed, many rural places are healthy and prosperous. Understanding the causes of this variation is critical to informing policies to improve outcomes in the places that are struggling.

This Committee has long been dedicated to addressing rural population issues that matter to policymakers, communities, and residents. Our objectives come in part from information gathered from stakeholders during meetings, briefings, field studies, and participation on other committees over the past five years. Committee members have consulted locally and at the highest levels of state and federal government as experts for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), task forces, advisory boards, and more. Through these meetings, we have heard from stakeholders concerned about the impacts of population aging, climate change, the drug overdose crisis, COVID-19, housing shortages, infrastructure challenges, Census 2020 data challenges, and various federal and state policy changes on rural communities. Accordingly, underlying our proposed work is a motivation to better understand drivers and consequences of rural population changes and adaptations in the context of health, economic, and environmental shocks and stressors. We highlight specific areas of need below:

Health and Aging: Rural people are sicker and die younger than their urban peers, a trend that has grown worse since the mid-2000s.1,2 However, the causal mechanisms driving these trends, as well as within-rural variation in these trends, are not clear. Improving our understanding of the causes and consequences of rural health, aging, and disability is of high priority to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a source of research support for several Committee members.3 Moreover, mental health receives less attention than other measures of health and well-being in the rural population sciences, a gap we aim fill. Social, economic and environmental shocks and stressors not only shape, but also risk exacerbating the rural health and mortality disadvantage. For example, COVID-19 threatens to widen the existing rural mortality penalty due to higher rural COVID-19 mortality rates.4,5 Other shocks and stressors (e.g., overdose epidemic, climate change, housing shortages) are also critical foci for understanding rural health trends.

Economic Wellbeing: Rural people, places, and institutions face multiple enduring and emerging challenges to prosperity and well-being. This Committee has a long tradition of conducting research on rural economic wellbeing, with particular emphasis on labor markets, patterns of earnings, and household income. Efforts to understand economic wellbeing are intimately connected to demographic change. For example, the urbanization of America creates a demographic paradox of inequality. For urbanizing rural communities, economic prospects are bright, with higher education and income, lower poverty rates, and less population aging. Other rural communities are remote and isolated and often depend on extraction, low-wage manufacturing, and service industries.6 Both poverty rates and income inequality are important indicators of population level social and economic disadvantage.7-13 Poverty signifies insufficient income to obtain the necessities of life. Inequality indicates broad exclusion from institutional opportunities and resources. Populations with high inequality are thought to have limited social mobility, unequal opportunities for civic engagement, and high risk of social disintegration. Thus, it is critical to understand both rural poverty and inequality and their sensitivity to public policy, infrastructural changes, and demographic change.

Infrastructure: Infrastructure is essential to wellbeing, encompassing housing, water systems, energy, transportation, communication systems, and access to food and healthcare. A recent survey of rural development practitioners (Extension, nonprofit leaders) identified physical infrastructure and services (especially broadband), economic development, workforce development, and health as priorities for the next five years.14 Communities across the U.S. are struggling with aging infrastructure,15 but those experiencing depopulation also face decreasing revenues and insufficient tax bases. With many rural places facing depopulation due to natural decrease and net out-migration,16,17 the intersections of population change and physical infrastructure are ripe for applied research. Rural community- and household-level infrastructure have received renewed attention as a result of COVID-19, especially in terms of health care, housing security, and broadband,18 with implications for education, employment, and access to health care.

Environmental Challenges: The physical environment is an understudied but critical factor for understanding rural population and wellbeing trends. Our research on the impacts of local area environmental change and natural and humanmade disasters in the U.S. show the importance of rural-urban context in shaping community impacts.19-21 The uneven distribution of resources and infrastructure necessary for effective planning, adaptation, and mitigation makes studying impacts of environmental shocks and stressors on wellbeing and health paramount for rural America. In particular, research is needed on the challenges facing resource-constrained and aging rural communities and their ability to respond to environmental shocks and stressors.19

Policy Responses and Challenges: In the face of shocks and stressors, effective governments are critical to ensuring resilient and sustainable rural communities.22-26 We have previously shown that the impacts of federal policies vary between rural and urban areas and different types of rural communities.27 In addition, we have shown that county governments play an important role in economic development28 and adaptation to environmental and demographic changes.29-31 This prior research makes clear the importance of a multiscalar government response to shocks and stressors. State-level policies can enhance or constrain local action. For example, state aid to localities and state standards for infrastructure and public health can promote rural wellbeing.30,32 COVID-19 highlighted the importance of state policy choices on health and economic outcomes.33-35 But states can also constrain local action, as seen through the increasing use of state preemption of local authority to enact public health, labor, tax, and environmental policies.36-38 In interviews, state directors of local government associations explained how state policies constrained their ability to meet local needs related to infrastructure finance, environmental review, and broadband extension.39

In sum, although we know a lot about the determinants of rural population change from our previous multi-state projects, research on rural population change and adaptation (including policy) within the context of contemporary health, economic, and environmental shocks and stressors lags behind. Moreover, rural people and places are more diverse than ever. The “new” rural America is characterized by significant variation in racial/ethnic, age, and economic composition, livelihoods, politics, and health. More interactions are occurring at the interface of rural and urban spaces.40,41 In addition, different processes may be at play in generating change and adaptation at different spatial scales (e.g., neighborhoods, counties, labor markets, states).42 Research is needed to describe and explain how and why health, economic, and environmental shocks and stressors are differentially associated with rural population dynamics across different demographic groups, spatial units, and the rural-urban interface.

To address the needs outlined above, W5001 brings together scientists with expertise in rural demographic change (fertility, health and mortality, migration, composition) with those with interests in development, policy, and governance. As with our previous multi-state projects, our objectives are intentionally broad to enable us to incorporate stakeholder feedback as we refine and prioritize our research questions.

Importance of the Work and Consequences if it is Not Done

Rural communities are essential to food production, natural resource management, and environmental sustainability. Many multistate committees focus on solutions to challenges in these areas. However, the adoption and effectiveness of solutions depend on understanding demographic, social, and behavioral dynamics, and how differences and changes in these dynamics affect the implementation of science-based knowledge. The urgency of examining the trends discussed above has been heightened by contemporary macro-level economic, environmental, and public health shocks and stressors.

Better understanding the multilevel and multidimensional causes and consequences of rural population change and adaptation requires building interdisciplinary collaborations, recruiting and training new scholars with diverse perspectives, developing data and analytic resources, and disseminating findings to scholars, policymakers, and the public. W5001 brings together scientists with multiple disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological approaches to conduct comprehensive analyses of population processes affecting rural areas and provides stakeholders with policy-relevant findings. The needs outlined above are among the most pressing challenges of our time and are at the forefront of policy considerations for rural sustainability. In an era of heightened interest in rural America, our work provides critical context for scientists, policymakers, and rural community leaders who must decide where science-based knowledge and public interventions are required and what actions to take.

Technical Feasibility of the Research

The considerable accomplishments of our predecessor committees demonstrate our ability to collaborate effectively. In 2020, W4001 was awarded both the WAAESD and the National Excellence in Multistate Research Awards, substantiating the impact of our research and dissemination efforts. Our committee is prolific and has built a sustained multigenerational, multi-institutional, and multidisciplinary membership of rural population scholars. Many mid-career members were mentored by participants of predecessor committees and now mentor its early career scholars. In its first four years (2017-2021), W4001 produced six books; 235 peer-reviewed journal articles; 73 book chapters; 115 public briefs and op-eds; several data resources; and multiple capacity-building workshops for community organizations. Committee members secured nearly $22 million in research funding and an additional $3.5 million in research network funds to leverage multistate research support. We conducted 150+ presentations to stakeholders, including Congress, GAO, OMB, Office of Rural Health Policy, ONDCP, NASEM, NIH, state legislatures, regional rural development centers, and Cooperative Extension officials. Attesting to its global impact, our research has been covered in numerous high-impact media outlets (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CBS, US News, AP News, NPR, Forbes, Atlantic, Bloomberg, BBC, USA Today, The Guardian, The Conversation).

Collectively, our funded projects involve collaboration among multiple committee members, and are enhanced by our group’s research base, support, and mentorship. For example, related to W5001’s objectives, Committee members received a $1.6 million grant from the NIA to build an Interdisciplinary Network on Rural Population Health and Aging (2019-2024). The Network will enhance scholarly collaborations to build data and analytic resources, conduct policy-relevant research, and ensure sustained impact on rural population health and aging research.

We do not envision any new technical issues that would hinder the accomplishment of W5001’s proposed objectives. Over half of the members plan to participate in all three objectives with most of the rest participating in two objectives. Members have extensive experience compiling and analyzing large datasets from several sources and geographic scales. Many have skills in spatial analysis and using geographic information systems to map and analyze population patterns. Several members have qualitative research expertise to conduct field studies and in-depth interviews with rural community leaders and residents. In recent years, we have seen how Zoom can be used to successfully hold virtual or hybrid meetings. We had 39 attendees at our 2021 virtual annual meeting. Even after meetings return to in-person, we anticipate providing a virtual component to maximize attendance and participation.

Advantages of Doing the Work as a Multi-State Effort

The multi-state framework provides an essential venue for interdisciplinary research that is both national in scope and committed to understanding regional and local contexts of demographic change. W5001 is a large and diverse group of world-class leaders in rural population research whose work affects not only the West but stretches across the country, continent, and world. Our previous projects have demonstrated the distinct advantages of conducting our work as a multi-state effort. Our impacts have been multiple and broad in scope and have been seen locally, regionally, and nationally in a variety of fields in science, practice, and policy. At the time of our W5001 proposal submission, we have 31 investigators at 19 institutions with expertise in sociology, demography, economics, geography, public health, regional planning and development, social work, policy, and Extension (Several more Appendix E requests are in process). Many members come from universities that are not traditional multi-state project participants. Our expanded membership over time has widened the scope and impact of our research from the rural West. Our research activities are now informed by in-depth knowledge of the Pacific Northwest, Mountain West, northern Great Plains, upper Great Lakes, Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, Mid-Atlantic, and New England. Several committee members hold Extension appointments, and their expertise provides on-the-ground, stakeholder-informed knowledge of issues facing different rural communities and planning needs of county, state, and regional agencies. Although collaborations take place year round, input on ongoing and new research occurs during well-attended annual meetings (15-20 attendees annually), which we hold in geographically diverse locations to enable involvement and input from community stakeholders from different regions. These annual education, training, and networking opportunities have helped applied scholars, some in traditionally under-resourced institutions, to build capacity to use data, understand rural population change, and inform rural development policies and practices.  

Likely Impacts from Successfully Completing the Work

W5001 will provide timely science-based knowledge about the social, economic, and health contexts within which public policy operates in our diverse and changing rural populations. We will draw attention to how demographic change plays out unevenly and how recent health, environmental, and economic shocks and stressors have been experienced differently across various segments of the U.S. rural population. Our primary goal is the production of high-impact policy-relevant research that informs users about current demographic trends and their implications for rural policy. We aim for a broad stakeholder audience and will continue our strong record of impact described below. Ultimately, our work is critical to helping policymakers decide where public intervention is most needed, and the forms such actions might take.

The impacts of W4001 (our predecessor committee) through our research, new data resources, and outreach have been numerous. We were among the first to identify rising rural opioid overdose rates and explanations for those trends, leading to rapid resource allocation to rural areas. Our research has informed anti-poverty policies, leading to changes in official measurements of poverty and underemployment, and ultimately, how safety net resources are distributed. We were the first to show that the rural population was shrinking due to young adult outmigration, fewer births, and increased mortality. This research shaped outreach aimed at federal policy audiences through USDA’s Rural America at a Glance and the Agricultural and Rural Prosperity Task Force, increasing the likelihood that federal rural development programs are adapted to population trends. Our disaster resilience research and outreach informed placement and training of community health workers after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, resulting in enhanced preparedness and capacity. W4001’s Net Migration Patterns for U.S. Counties Database is the go-to website for county age-specific net migration trends (350,000+ visits; 8,000+ data downloads; 360,000+ maps and charts created). Multiple stakeholders report that they use these data to understand market demand and resource needs and to inform planning, program and infrastructure development, and resource allocation. Reflecting our broad scope and ability to respond rapidly to challenges, W4001 was among the first to provide essential information about COVID-19’s effects on rural communities, which included journal publications, public briefs, and presentations on geographic disparities in testing, case, death, and vaccination rates; rural vulnerabilities related to age and chronic disease prevalence; economic impacts; spread of misinformation; and implications of reopening. These are just a few examples of the types of impacts we anticipate for W5001.

Related, Current and Previous Work

Objective 1: Describe recent U.S. rural population change and the components of these changes, and investigate the roles of recent population health, environmental, and policy shocks and stressors in driving these changes. 

The demographic phenomena that drive rural population change—fertility, mortality, and migration—vary by place and are driven by multiple factors, including resource-tied economic booms,43 economic restructuring,24,44-46 shifts in lifestyles,47,48 and major global events like COVID-19. These exogenous factors interact with underlying age structure and population distribution, such that current rural demographic trends depend at least in part on the fertility, mortality, and migration of eras past, and today’s changes will be felt decades into the future.

Over a third of U.S. rural counties are experiencing a demographic trajectory best characterized as depopulation.17 As we have learned through W4001, this decline is exacerbated by natural decrease (more deaths than births), which exacerbates net outmigration.16,49 In fact, 46% of U.S. counties (79% of which are rural) recorded more deaths than births from 2010 to 2019.16

The overlap of natural increase/decrease with migration dictates communities’ prospects for growth. Thus, local factors that attract in-migrants or encourage out-migrants are important for mitigating or accelerating the rate of population growth or decline. Our past research documents the place-level characteristics that drive rural population growth, including natural amenities,50-52 employment booms,53 natural resources,43 and adjacent cities.17,54 Our research on the Great Recession highlights how an exogenous shock can impact migration. The Great Recession reduced household mobility,55 resulting in a pause in rural population change.56 The Recession also led to fewer births nationally.57 As a result, rural areas with histories of decline lost more population, and rural areas with histories of growth gained less. W5001 will aim to determine whether these are short-term or long-term trends.

Immigration, particularly from Latin America, has sustained population growth in many rural communities.53,58-60 Foreign born newcomers buoy populations in the short term and often contribute to longer-term growth with higher fertility rates and more family age migrants than native-born residents.61 After increasing through the late-1990s and early-2000’s,62 U.S. immigration recently diminished due to declines in sanctioned immigration, stricter enforcement of unsanctioned immigration, and the Great Recession.

Amidst these trends, enduring patterns of regional growth and decline have persisted, resulting in considerable heterogeneity in the spatial patterns of rural demographic change. Population growth has continued to concentrate in southern and western “sunbelt” states, fueled primarily by relocation to exurban counties proximate to major cities, and to a lesser extent, recreational and retirement destinations.63

Our research on demographic trends during the Great Recession revealed the impact that exogenous shocks and stressors have on rural communities, underscoring the importance of continued research on how rural communities are impacted by more recent shocks and stressors. W5001 will examine recent demographic changes within the context of contemporary economic, health, and environmental shocks and stressors. This will include accounting for changes in fertility and mortality, the changing flow of international migrants, age- and race-specific migration patterns, and the spatial patterns of age-race segregation within rural communities.49,64,65

COVID-19’s likely impacts on rural populations are myriad and layered, warranting robust demographic investigation. The pandemic has renewed concerns about rural-urban disparities in health and longer-term mortality trends, medical systems, and economic resilience. Furthermore, although COVID-19 has overshadowed the drug overdose epidemic, it persists unabated. Together, these health crises represent unprecedented shocks to rural communities, including accelerating natural decrease. The implications of these epidemiological factors to rural population change require additional research, which W5001 will pursue.

The COVID-19 pandemic may also have changed the density preference of U.S. households in ways that could benefit rural communities. Rural leaders and planners are interested in whether new residents and businesses will be attracted to rural areas. For example, how many of the households that flocked to rural places during the pandemic will put down roots there? Of critical long-term importance is the profile of newcomers who decide to stay. While the pandemic reduced births in the short-term, rural places that gain young people and families may see both future fertility rates and community activity buoyed by new residents.

Lastly, our research will attend to patterns that emerge in response to environmental shocks and stressors, as they will likely impact future population distribution. Rising oil prices might reaccelerate growth in rural Western counties. Rapidly worsening drought and wildfire may redirect growth away from forested and arid climates. Increasing attention to climate change in the popular media may introduce new considerations for amenity migrants, or large employers. 

Objective 2: Describe shifts in rural economic wellbeing (i.e., poverty, livelihood strategies, income, housing, infrastructure) in the context of recent population health, environmental, and policy shocks and stressors and identify linkages between economic wellbeing and population dynamics, policies, and institutional responses.

Poverty, Livelihoods, Inequality, and Economic Wellbeing: There has been a marked increase in geographically concentrated poverty since 2000.66,67 Rural families with children have experienced higher poverty rates than urban families. Rural wages have declined, leading to female exit from the labor force.68 Risk of poverty among the employed has increased.69 Advances in measurement have changed our understanding of the geography of poverty. We have shown that with the official poverty measure, poverty rates are higher in rural America.68,70 However, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), introduced in 2009, includes near-cash transfers and adjusts for geographic differences in cost of living, showing lower rural poverty rates, explained in part by differences in local median rents.71,72 W5001 will continue to broaden our understandings of rural economic wellbeing, considering consumption patterns, debts, and wealth.112-114

Our research on spatial differences in rural income inequality,9 shows the importance of occupational composition and the decline of manufacturing.7,73,74 Rural income inequality is higher in the South, in part due to more restrictive welfare programs.9,75 High poverty and income inequality go together, but some counties have high poverty rates and relatively low inequality,76 showing general exclusion from social and economic opportunities. Spatial differences in poverty and inequality are driven by uneven economic development,7,73,74,77-80 and differences in institutional performance during exogenous shocks.8,81 For example, the Great Recession increased within-state inequality in employment.82 Many in rural America remain disengaged from the labor force.68 Labor demand is related to safety net participation83 regardless of family type (dual or single parent).70 As the safety net tends toward work requirements and tax credits,84,85 rural safety net use will differ from urban use, as rural areas rely more on safety nets for income.68 Our previous research also shows substantial inequality in local government finance and service provision. Local governments were differentially affected by the Great Recession,86 and the same is likely to be the case with COVID-19. While counties help to maintain the social safety net,11 they are squeezed by state restrictions on property taxes.36 Our recent research suggests social welfare expenditures may crowd out developmental expenditures.12,13 W5001 will consider how safety net and economic policies affect economic wellbeing, and to what extent trends in deregulation, devolution, and state preemption laws111 shape trends in economic wellbeing.

New directions in measuring the geography of labor markets87 include attention to the multiscalar nature of state and local policy.88,89 Policies have differential impacts on rural communities.90-93 Strong local institutions can promote equitable development.94,95 Shared services can enhance access and quality to critical public services.96,97 COVID-19 highlighted the importance of state policy choices, as some were more likely to support strong public health policies.33 Yet the implications of states’ COVID-19 mitigation policies on long-term economic wellbeing remain unknown. This will be an important area of inquiry for W5001.

Housing and Infrastructure: Rural housing is shaped by myriad policies and programs,98 and special attention must be given to rural renters.99 W4001’s research showed important regional differences in housing due to cost, transportation, and subprime lending.100 Housing has implications for poverty, labor force participation, natural resource occupations, and recovery from COVID-19.101 Land tenure, especially heirs’ property (owners passing on property without a will) is a special concern in low-income rural minority communities.104,105 This property is vulnerable to predatory practices, and owners have limited access to financing for disaster relief, infrastructure, or economic use.106 Spatial demographic trends associated with net-migration, population aging and heirs’ property are not well understood. W5001 will examine relationships between land tenure arrangements, household and community infrastructures, and local planning and services, including how these factors relate to rural population aging and economic wellbeing.

Research on rural infrastructure and its relationship to economic wellbeing is critically needed. Water is a key infrastructure, and lead is a critical problem, especially in older housing and homes dependent on wells.102 Problems with affordability are also rising. Water systems need replacement, and subsidy funding is inadequate. Municipal systems can address both environmental and affordability issues,34,103 but in areas facing depopulation, these concerns are even higher.

Advances in broadband, and opportunities for remote learning, work, and access to health care link many infrastructure issues.99 The infrastructure and services needed for job creation and wellbeing are critical to stave off population decline.107 Broadband access is essential for rural economic productivity.108,109 COVID-19 highlighted the importance of broadband. Occupations amenable to telework had reductions in unemployment, but only in places with high rates of broadband adoption.110 There is need to understand the relationship between jobs, capital, technological innovation, and community wellbeing in the context of changing economies.115

Building on this existing evidence base, W5001 will conduct research to examine how contemporary shocks and stressors and their associated policy responses are related to rural housing, infrastructure and economic wellbeing. Recognizing that there is substantial within-rural heterogeneity, we will examine these relationships by region and across the rural-urban continuum.

Objective 3: Investigate how recent shocks and stressors affect trends in rural population health, disabilities, and health disparities across the lifespan and how communities and institutions respond to and adapt to these challenges.

Rural people are sicker and die younger than their urban peers, a trend that began in the 1990s and has grown worse since the mid-2000s.1,2,116-120 The growth of the “rural mortality penalty” has been driven by working-age adults (ages 25-64) and has been due in part to smaller rural declines in heart disease mortality, but rural increases in respiratory disease mortality, drug and alcohol deaths, and suicides have also contributed to the growing gap.1,2 Our research shows that rural adults have worse self-rated health,121 higher rates of disability,122 and higher chronic disease prevalence123-125 than their urban peers. However, the causal mechanisms driving these differences are not clear. This will be an important area of inquiry for W5001. Moreover, mental health receives less attention than other measures of health in the rural population sciences – a gap we aim to address.

Social, economic, and environmental shocks and stressors not only shape, but also risk exacerbating the rural health disadvantage. For example, COVID-19 threatens to make worse the existing rural mortality penalty due to higher rural COVID-19 mortality rates.4,5 Other shocks and stressors (e.g., economic restructuring, population aging, the drug overdose epidemic, and climate change) will remain focal points for examining rural and disability trends.

NASEM recently released a report on high and rising U.S. morality rates co-authored by Committee member Monnat.2 The report provides a framework for understanding the factors that may be contributing to worsening health and mortality trends in the U.S. The factors are thought to operate throughout the life course at three main levels: micro/individual, meso/community, and macrostructural. This framework will guide W5001’s efforts to understand rural health, disability and mortality trends, especially in light of various shocks and stressors.

At the micro/individual-level, the rural disadvantage may be related to worse health behaviors.126,127 Research from our previous projects also shows that rural areas are also home to disproportionately larger shares of populations vulnerable to morbidity, and premature mortality, including those with more economic deprivation, underemployment, and disability and lower levels of educational attainment.66,128-130 More research is needed on new measures of economic wellbeing (e.g., SPM) and how they interact with individual- and household-level health behaviors, coping strategies, and health care use following shocks and stressors in rural areas.

At the meso-level, health care services are more limited in rural than in urban areas.123,124,131 The increase in the rural older adult population will increase demand on the already under-resourced rural health care infrastructure. Aging populations will require infrastructure adaptation to improve access. Such accommodations are more expensive in rural areas where infrastructure is older and there is less money for upgrades.31,132 In addition, rural communities are less likely to have aging services organizations,133 which may result in unmet need or additional burden on families. Research is needed on rural communities that have experienced population decline, but have maintained robust services for older adults,90 as well as the health implications of scarcity in other services, like housing and legal services and social infrastructure. Stronger community and social cohesion in some rural places may enable a variety of survival mechanisms, and informal caregiving may fill service gaps. However, rural residents may face challenges to accessing assistance from their support networks.134 Studies are needed on the substitution effects of social capital in the face of service limitations.

The physical environment is also an understudied but potentially critical meso-level factor for understanding rural health and mortality trends. Our research on the impacts of local environmental change and disasters highlights the importance of social capital and rural-urban context in shaping health impacts.19-21 We have shown that community groups with strong ties, resources, and other capital can help reduce vulnerability in the face of environmental shocks and stressors, including in rural communities with long-term poverty, such as the Mississippi Delta.135-137 However, there is a need for research on the challenges facing resource-constrained and aging rural communities and their ability to respond to environmental shocks and stressors.19 W5001 will advance the science in this area by identifying characteristics of places that lead to greater vulnerability or resiliency. A broad contribution will be the identification and integration of environmental, social, and health-related data to generate resources for the scientific community to respond to knowledge gaps.

At the macrostructural level, economic and social shocks and stressors have differentially affected rural people and places.27,78,138-140 Long-term economic changes have led to economic decimation in some places and prosperity in others.141,142 Employment restructuring moved many livable-wage production jobs out of rural places and concentrated high-wage high-skill employment in a handful of urban cores.7,143-148 This resulted in fewer and lower-wage employment opportunities for those without a college degree and made some places more vulnerable than others to public health shocks like the drug overdose crisis and COVID-19. Selective out-migration, where healthier and better-resourced young adults leave poor communities, 149 has intensified the geographic clustering of multigenerational economic distress in many rural communities and heightened health risks. Industrial transformation has affected different rural areas in different ways,141,143 but we know very little about how rural economic survival strategies have changed over time and how they affect health. Moreover, federal policies and programs are typically written without considering how they might affect places differently depending on population composition or geographic context. Our prior research demonstrates how various national policies, such as the Older Americans Act, ACA, and SNAP differentially affect health in rural versus urban areas.27,150,151 W5001 will continue to pursue research in this vein, with attention to how COVID-19 policies differentially affected rural areas.

While the health and mortality trends outlined above are concerning, the rural U.S. is not monolithic. Mortality rates have increased in some rural places over the past 30 years but have declined in others.1,152 Attending to this within-rural variation is a key priority for W5001. For example, we found large divisional and labor market disparities in mortality across rural counties since 1990.1 Our research also shows that drug overdose rates are much higher and have risen more sharply in some rural places than others.153-156 More research is needed to understand why some rural populations and places appear to be resilient against shocks and stressors. W5001 will attend to these gaps.

Finally, research on intersections between rurality, race/ethnicity, nativity, and health and how these factors vary across regions (e.g., Appalachia, Delta South, Black Belt, Rio Grande Valley, and Native-American regions) is sparse.119,157-159 As we have shown, there is increasing racial/ethnic diversity in rural areas.160,161 Accordingly, research on intersections between regions, race/ethnicity, and nativity is highly warranted.

As shown in our CRIS search report, our proposed project does not duplicate any existing multistate projects or activities. To our knowledge, we are the only multistate project with a focus on rural population change and adaptation in the face of health, economic, and environmental shocks and stressors. W5001 will leverage the knowledge and significant human capital developed through our predecessor committees to advance rural population research and policy.

Objectives

  1. Describe recent U.S. rural population change and the components of these changes (births, deaths, internal and international migration), and investigate the roles of recent population health, environmental, and policy shocks and stressors in driving these changes.
    Comments: 77% of participants (24/31) from 17 institutions plan to participate in this objective. Cornell University (David Brown, Dan Lichter) Illinois University (Mary Arends-Kuenning) Iowa State University (David Peters) Kansas State University (Matthew Sanderson) Kenyon College (Shaun Golding) Louisiana State University (Tim Slack) McGill University (Shelley Clark) Michigan Technological University (Richelle Winkler) Middlebury College (Peter Nelson) Ohio State University (Kerry Ard) Pennsylvania State University (Raeven Chandler, Guangqing Chi, Leif Jensen, Laszlo Kulcsar, Heather Randell, Kathleen Sexsmith, Brian Thiede) Southern Rural Development Center (John Green) Syracuse University (Shannon Monnat, Yue Sun) University of Colorado Boulder (Lori Hunter) University of New Hampshire (Kenneth Johnson) University of Oklahoma (Tom Mueller) University of Wisconsin (Dan Veroff)
  2. Describe shifts in rural economic wellbeing (i.e., poverty, livelihood strategies, income, housing, infrastructure) in the context of recent population health, environmental, and policy shocks and stressors and identify linkages between economic wellbeing and population dynamics, policies, and institutional responses.
    Comments: 90% of participants (28/31) from 18 institutions plan to participate in this objective. Cornell University (David Brown, Paige Kelly, Dan Lichter, Mildred Warner, Xue Zhang) Illinois University (Mary Arends-Kuenning) Iowa State University (David Peters) Kansas State University (Matthew Sanderson) Kenyon College (Shaun Golding) Louisiana State University (Tim Slack) Michigan Technological University (Richelle Winkler) Middlebury College (Peter Nelson) Ohio State University (Kerry Ard) Oregon State University (David Rothwell) Pennsylvania State University (Raeven Chandler, Guangqing Chi, Leif Jensen, Laszlo Kulcsar, Heather Randell, Danielle Rhubart, Kathleen Sexsmith, Brian Thiede) Southern Rural Development Center (John Green) Syracuse University (Shannon Monnat, Yue Sun) University of Colorado Boulder (Lori Hunter) University of New Hampshire (Kenneth Johnson) University of Oklahoma (Tom Mueller) University of Wisconsin (Dan Veroff) Utah State University (Jessica Schad)
  3. Investigate how recent shocks and stressors affect trends in rural population health, disabilities, and health disparities across the lifespan and how communities and institutions respond to and adapt to these challenges.
    Comments: 77% of participants (24/31) from 14 institutions plan to participate in this objective. Cornell University (Paige Kelly, Dan Lichter, Mildred Warner, Xue Zhang) Iowa State University (David Peters) Kenyon College (Shaun Golding) Louisiana State University (Tim Slack) McGill University (Shelley Clark) Ohio State University (Kerry Ard) Pennsylvania State University (Guangqing Chi, Leif Jensen, Laszlo Kulcsar, Heather Randell, Danielle Rhubart, Kathleen Sexsmith, Brian Thiede) Southern Rural Development Center (John Green) Syracuse University (Shannon Monnat, Yue Sun) University of Colorado Boulder (Lori Hunter) University of New Hampshire (Kenneth Johnson) University of Oklahoma (Tom Mueller) University of Wisconsin (Dan Veroff) Utah State University (E. Helen Berry, Jessica Schad)

Methods

The three objectives share methodological approaches, including data sources and analytic methods. Common large scale data sources across the three objectives include the U.S. Census Bureau Decennial Censuses and American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates, USDA Economic Research Service’s Rural-Urban Continuum and Economic Typology Codes, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Our research relies on both ecological (county and state level aggregate) outcomes and individual-level outcomes (described under each objective below). Although most of our analyses will use demographic, econometric, epidemiological, and survey analysis methods, we will augment this quantitative research with qualitative and mixed methods research involving case studies, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. These more intensive qualitative approaches strengthen and deepen explanations and provide localized meaning to the aggregate quantitative findings.

Key to our approach is examining the roles of recent economic, environmental, and population health shocks and stressors and the roles of local, state, and federal policies in driving rural population change (fertility, health and mortality, migration, population composition). Aggregate place-level data capturing economic shocks and stressors will come from the U.S. Census Bureau (Decennial Censuses, American Community Survey) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (Consumer Expenditure Data). Place-level data on climate events and environmental conditions will come from IPUMS-TERRA, First Street Foundation, the USDA-supported Wildfire Risk Organization website, and Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. The drug overdose crisis and COVID-19 are two examples of large-scale population health shocks that have had demographically and geographically differential impacts. National data on COVID-19 outcomes are available from a wide variety of sources (USA Facts, U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The differential impacts of the drug overdose crisis can be proxied with data on drug mortality rates from the National Vital Statistics System.  Data on federal policies will come from the Department of Health and Human Services (public health and social welfare), Treasury (use of ARPA funds), and USDA (rural development). There are numerous sources for data on state policies and their changes (Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and Social Research Correlates of State Policy database) as well as data on COVID-19 mitigation, safety net, and reopening policies (Kaiser Family Foundation State COVID-19 Data and Policy Actions, Multistate COVID-19 Policy Tracker, National Conference of State Legislatures State Action on Coronavirus; the Health and Retirement Survey’s COVID-19 U.S. State Policy Database). Data on state preemption of local authority to enact policies are available via Grassroots Change Preemption Watch website.

Joint planning of research questions, data sources, and analytic methods, and discussions around interpreting the findings and identifying outlets for dissemination will occur at annual meetings and within smaller topic-focused research teams. As in the past, Committee members will collaborate to build databases that are accessible to all members. The NIA-funded Interdisciplinary Network on Rural Population Health and Aging (INRPHA), which is led by several W5001 members, has begun to develop a contextual data resource that will include longitudinal county and census tract data on demographic, economic, social, and health measures. Working jointly with INRPHA, we will intensify this effort to maximize this new data resource for use by rural population scholars across the country. 

Below we describe the specific variables, data sources, and methods we intend to use for each objective. As specific research questions are finalized with the input of stakeholders, we will incorporate additional data sources and methodological approaches.

Objective 1 relies on aggregate, comparative, cross-sectional, and longitudinal analyses of population change across the United States. Specific measures of population change will include place-level (aggregate) measures of fertility (births), mortality (deaths), migration, and population composition (age, racial/ethnic, socioeconomic). Data for Objective 1 will come from a variety of federal sources including, but not limited to the U.S. Census Bureau (Decennial Censuses, ACS, County Business Patterns), the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (National Vital Statistics System), and County-Level Net Migration Patterns for U.S. Counties (developed as part of W3001). New 5-year ACS estimates are released each year, allowing for assessment of change on a range of demographic, social, housing, and economic variables. Most of the research from Objective 1 will be ecological (county and state level) and rely on nonmetropolitan counties as a proxy for rural areas. However, the team will examine demographic change along the entire rural-urban continuum using typologies such as the ERS Rural Urban Continuum Codes. In addition to the ecological analysis, the ACS also provides public use microdata that can be analyzed to identify individual and household characteristics and patterns, and to compare between public use microdata areas (PUMAs).

The recent 2020 Decennial Census will facilitate important analyses of rural demographic change. However, the impact of the statistical noise injected by the Census Bureau via the new disclosure avoidance system using differential privacy introduces uncertainty into the 2020 Census data.162 The impact of this technique, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on Census response bias, remains poorly understood. As part of W5001, we will evaluate and report on the quality of the 2020 Census data as we document recent demographic change and its impact on rural people, communities, and regions.

Objective 2 will incorporate quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods strategies to both a) describe shifts in rural economic wellbeing in the context of recent macro-level population health, environmental, and policy shocks and stressors, and b) identify linkages between rural economic wellbeing and population dynamics, policies, and institutional responses. Economic wellbeing outcomes will include individual and place-level poverty, livelihood strategies, income, housing, and infrastructure. Specific shocks and stressors will include the COVID-19 induced economic downturn, climate events (e.g., hurricanes and flooding), and federal and state policy changes.

Our research on rural poverty, livelihoods, and inequality will use a suite of multivariate statistical methods, including ordinary least squares multiple regression, binary and multinomial logistic regression, Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition, multilevel models, causal analysis (e.g., difference-in-difference), and spatial models. Much of our research for this objective will rely on aggregate-level data from the Decennial Censuses and American Community Survey 5-year estimates (inclusive of all U.S. counties). We will use spatial methods to account for spatial autocorrelation and to visualize spatial variability in social and economic processes. At the household and individual levels, we will use cross sectional surveys (Current Population Survey; National Financial Capability Study) and panel surveys (Health and Retirement Study; Panel Study of Income Dynamics). There are also opportunities to use microdata from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and tax simulation models to create a more accurate understanding reliance on safety net transfers (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021). At least two nationally representative surveys are suitable for new analyses of financial wellbeing and the detailed assets and debt balance sheets of rural families: the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the National Financial Capability Study from the FINRA association. Spatial patterns of consumption will be examined using the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Committee members are also exploring ways to link state administrative data to restricted-use data from the U.S. Census Bureau, thereby providing more accurate data on income and safety net patterns connected to geographic details that are not accessible in the public use datasets (US Census Bureau, 2021). Several of our members have access to Federal Statistical Research Data Centers and security clearance to access these data. Experimental ACS data are also now available that allow researchers to estimate SPM poverty and related safety net impacts across states and sub-state levels.163 In addition, we will use case study approaches to examine the lived experiences of families and persons in high poverty and inequality areas, as well as persons living in areas that are “outliers”, such as where poverty and inequality fail to go together. Secondary analysis of the nationally representative sample of qualitative interviews in the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality’s America Voices Project will allow our team of multistate researchers to examine in-depth meaning and interpretation of labor markers, poverty, and safety net use in rural communities.

Efforts to develop the research and data necessary to explore rural housing and infrastructure challenges are expanding, with rural social scientists playing significant roles. Our proposed research in this area is informed by ongoing work by the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) (directed by W5001 member John Green at Mississippi State University) and other Committee members to better estimate the prevalence of heirs’ property at the county level, track it over time, and identify links with economic wellbeing.164-166 By working with nonprofit, university, and agency partners (e.g., U.S. Forest Service) in this research and Extension space, we will extend this ongoing work by considering inter-relationships between net-migration, population aging, and heirs’ property challenges and solutions for improved economic wellbeing.

Broadband is another important infrastructure focus for W5001. Numerous advances have been made in measuring broadband access and adoption. Although there has been a proliferation of studies using ACS data related to broadband access in recent years, there is still considerable room for advancement, especially given that the 5-year estimates needed for rural analysis and rural-urban comparisons were not available until 2017. New 5-year estimates are available each year, allowing for more timely analyses. With the release of 2022 5-year estimates (inclusive of 2017-22), W5001 researchers will be able to analyze change in broadband adoption across two non-overlapping 5-year time periods. This will open the potential for research on broadband adoption in rural communities in relation to demographic characteristics and economic wellbeing. We will partner with the Southern Rural Development Center on this research, as they are involved in a multi-state and multi-institutional effort to connect and advance broadband research and Extension, with special focus on traditionally underserved and limited socioeconomic resource communities nationwide. W5001 will engage members of these networks with broadband research to address important issues of how demographic characteristics, especially net-migration and population aging, intersect with broadband adoption, as well as how increased broadband adoption may be linked with population stabilization in rural places. We will also examine the influence of recent policy initiatives and investments on broadband access and adoption at the state level using the PEW database and consider how they may moderate the relationship between broadband access and demographic, social, and economic trends.

Finally, through focus groups and surveys, Committee members will track the issues and priorities of local governments. This work will be done in collaboration with state and national associations of local governments.  This engaged stakeholder approach will ensure our research is relevant to their needs. This is one reason why a multi-state research initiative is needed. Local government is a critical player in infrastructure, service delivery, planning, economic development and public health. W5001 researchers will track local government policy and service delivery in a range of local government services (economic development, environment, social services). We will also track local government finance and how this differs across space.

Specific outcomes of interest for Objective 3 include individual and aggregate (county- and state-level) mortality (all cause and cause specific), chronic diseases, health behaviors (including substance use and COVID-19 mitigation behaviors), disabilities and functional limitations, mental health, psychological wellbeing, and health care and aging service provider use. Data for Objective 3 will come from both national administrative data and surveys and from surveys designed and administered by Committee members. Our Committee has extensive experience working with restricted death certificate data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Vital Statistics System. With these data, we can calculate annual age-adjusted sex-, race-, and cause-specific mortality rates by county and state. We also have experience over the last two years working with COVID-19 case, mortality, and vaccination rate data from USA Facts and other sources. For individual-level analysis, we will use national cross-sectional data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, National Health Interview Survey, and National Survey on Drug Use and Health as well as panel data from the Health and Retirement Study. Committee members Monnat and Rhubart designed and administered a nationally representative survey of working-age adults (N=4,014) in February and March of 2021. The researchers intentionally oversampled rural residents, making this the first survey of its kind that enables robust rural-urban and within-rural analysis of numerous health and wellbeing outcomes. This National Wellbeing Survey (NWS) captures various measures of psychological wellbeing, mental health, physical health, health behaviors, functional limitations, employment satisfaction, and COVID-19 experiences. With funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monnat will be able to collect four additional waves of the NWS in 2022-2025, enabling W5001 members to examine changes in health and economic outcomes across demographic groups and geographic areas over time.

Data on macro-level economic, environmental, and policies changes examined under Objective 3 mirror those discussed above under Objective 2. There are also several potential individual and meso-level mechanisms through which these macro-level shocks and stressors could affect health outcomes. Identifying these mechanisms is a key priority for W5001. Many of the potential individual-level mediators (such as health behaviors, family conditions, employment characteristics, socioeconomic status, health care use) are available in the surveys we list above. Data on potential meso-level mediators include health care and related service availability and access, social infrastructure (such as parks, libraries, and community organizations), food access, and built and physical environment features are available from a variety of sources (mostly at the county level), including the Area Health Resource Files, the National Neighborhood Data Archive (NaNDA), and surveys conducted by W5001 members at Cornell in collaboration with the International City/County Management Association.

Analytic methods will include multivariate, multilevel, spatial, and causal data analysis. W5001 members have extensive experience with these methods and the proposed data described above.

Measurement of Progress and Results

Outputs

  • Peer-reviewed research publications Comments: Committee members have strong records of scholarly publication as noted above. We anticipate publishing numerous articles in refereed journals and as book chapters covering specific substantive issues related to the three objectives. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this Committee, we will submit articles to journals in the fields of Sociology, Demography, Economics, Community Development, Public Health, Geography, Gerontology, and Public Administration.
  • Publicly available policy briefs and op-eds Comments: We will produce and disseminate policy-related briefs and op-eds through a variety of outlets to make research results quickly and easily accessible to policymakers and stakeholders. While not limited to these outlets, we currently have two main publishers for our issue and research briefs: University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy Issue Brief Series and Syracuse University Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion Population Health Research Brief Series. We will also support dissemination through series with targeted geographic foci, such as the Pennsylvania Population Network Policy Brief Series.
  • Contextual data resource Comments: Many researchers who are using contextual data to understand rural population trends are spending significant time and resources individually compiling contextual databases. This approach has significant start-up costs for individual scientists and likely hinders others, especially junior scholars, from pursuing research projects that require such databases. Together with the NIA-funded Interdisciplinary Network on Rural Population Health and Aging, we will compile and make available to researchers a database on relevant contextual variables at the county and census tract levels that can be linked for robust analysis of rural population trends across time and space.
  • DC Rural Population Policy Event Comments: We will conduct one of the following events in Washington, DC. The final determination of which event to hold will be based on feedback from stakeholders and potential co-sponsors, such as the Population Association of America and the Rural Sociological Society. • Congressional briefing on current rural population trends, challenges, and opportunities. As before, we would co-sponsor with the Population Association of America to take advantage of their substantial experience organizing Congressional briefings. • Rural Policy Symposium: This half-day event would be a longer version of the proposed Congressional briefing, with structured presentations and panel discussions on current rural population trends, challenges, and opportunities, but targeted to agency professionals. • Training for Washington, DC agency interns: This event would provide training in rural population issues, including definitions, rural demographic trends, and pressing policy issues to summer interns from various offices and agencies. For any of the three events, we will provide attendees with a packet of policy briefs we develop over the course of the project.
  • Website with Resources for Rural Population Research, Teaching, and Extension Comments: Our predecessor Committees amassed substantial resources related to research, data, teaching, and outreach. As part of W5001, we will develop a website to make these resources and the new resources we produce over the next 5 years publicly available to researchers and other stakeholders. Specific resources will include hyperlinks to publications (journal articles, research briefs) produced through this project, links to our data resources (such as the U.S. County Net Migration Database), syllabi for related courses, and various extension materials our predecessor Committees have produced throughout the years. We will use a portion of our 2020 USDA multistate research award to fund the development of a user-friendly website that our committee can easily modify. The Committee Secretary will be in charge of website monitoring and changes.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Enactment of evidence-informed policies at the local, state, and national levels that improve rural health and wellbeing. W5001 brings together scientists with multiple disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological approaches to conduct comprehensive analyses of population processes affecting rural areas and provides stakeholders with policy-relevant findings. The needs outlined above are among the most pressing challenges of our time and are at the forefront of policy considerations for rural sustainability. In an era of heightened interest in rural America, our work will provide critical context for scientists, policymakers, and rural community leaders who must decide where science-based knowledge and public interventions are required and what actions to take. Although the research we have proposed does not aim to evaluate specific policies or practices, it does provide information that is crucial to good decision-making. W5001 will provide timely science-based knowledge about the demographic contexts within which public policy operates in our diverse and changing rural populations. We will draw attention to how demographic change plays out unevenly and how recent health, environmental, and economic shocks and stressors have been experienced differently across various segments of the U.S. rural population. Our demographic analysis will provide timely and actionable contextual information that will help policymakers and local leaders design or modify programs to address important social issues and problems. Moreover, the national and regional studies to be produced by this Committee enable state and local decision makers to consider their respective situations in a comparative context. As discussed above, the impacts of our predecessor committees have been numerous and broad in scope and have been seen locally, regionally, and nationally in a variety of fields in science, practice, and policy. At the time we wrote our previous proposals, many of these outcomes were unanticipated. We provide some general desired outcomes below, acknowledging that the impacts of social science research (e.g., policy change, improvements in individual and place-level physical, psychological, and behavioral health, declines in poverty), often take decades to manifest.
  • Adaptation of federal rural development programs to respond to recent rural population trends.
  • Enhanced rural preparedness for environmental shocks and longer-term stressors, leading to reductions in fatalities and other adverse health outcomes.
  • Increased federal resource allocation to rural areas.
  • More efficient use of public and private investments through refined targeting of resources.
  • Enhanced attention to rural people and places by the National Institutes of Health and other federal research agencies, as evidenced by an increase in rural-relevant research funding opportunities and events.

Milestones

(2023):• Work with Regional Rural Development Centers and other stakeholders to finalize our specific set of research questions within the scope of our three objectives. • Populate the Committee’s new website (to be launched in late-2022) with materials from our predecessor committees. Additional materials will be added quarterly throughout the duration of W5001. • Identify additional data resources that currently exist or should be developed to answer our research questions. • Report to national and state agencies on rural community responses to COVID-19 based on results from surveys and focus groups. • A subcommittee will report to the group any observable impacts of Census 2020 differential privacy and data collection challenges associated with COVID-19 on Census data quality and ability to conduct rural population research.

(2024):• Proceed with any necessary data collection and/or compilation of existing data resources to facilitate the Committee’s research. • Conduct analysis related to the three objectives, using various data sources and methods. • Share findings with local, state, and national stakeholders to get feedback and direction for future research.

(2025):• Continue conducting research related to the three objectives. • Present findings to academic, policy, and public stakeholder audiences. • Publish peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and policy briefs. • Finalize and share the jointly produced rural contextual data resource.

(2026):• Continue conducting research related to the three objectives. • Present findings to academic, policy, and public stakeholder audiences. • Publish peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and policy briefs. • Decide on and begin planning for the DC event on rural population issues (Congressional briefing, rural policy symposium, or summer intern training.

(2027):• Finish organizing and conduct the DC event on rural population issues. • Wrap up joint peer-reviewed journal articles, policy briefs, and other outputs.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Our Committee has long excelled at outreach. We will use standard academic journal publications and presentations across multiple disciplines to disseminate research findings to scholars. We will publish public policy briefs to disseminate our research to policy and practice audiences (as described above). Our briefs summarize research findings in short and easily digestible formats, focuses on the 1-2 main takeaways. The Committee has its own Twitter feed and Facebook account. When we have a new publication, we will post a link to these social media outlets.

Our annual meetings will include stakeholder sessions aimed at understanding important demographic issues facing rural communities. We will work with Regional Rural Development Centers to set up focus groups on issues linking rural development, demographic change, and wellbeing. Committee member John Green’s recent appointment as Director of the Southern Rural Development Center will facilitate these activities.

W5001 will leverage our long and productive relationships with the U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies, facilitating research and outreach beyond USDA and land-grant systems. Our activities with NASEM (e.g., Consensus Committee on Higher and Rising Mortality), NIH (e.g., National Rural Health Day; Interdisciplinary Network on Rural Population Health and Aging), Population Association of America (e.g., co-sponsored Congressional briefing), Rural Sociological Society (e.g., co-sponsored Rural Policy Symposium) demonstrate the wide scope and influence of research. Committee members are in high demand for interviews by national, regional, and local media and are regularly invited to present at professional forums, panels, and workshops.

We expect to continue our high level of outreach and to expand our contacts to include groups with interests in rural infrastructure and environmental issues.

Outreach will also occur through the group’s proposed website, as described above.

Organization/Governance

Our Committee elects a Chair and Vice Chair (Chair-Elect) from attendees at our annual meeting. The Chair coordinates the activities of the project, facilitates the annual meeting, and supervises the group’s listserv (housed within google groups); the Vice Chair serves when the chair is unable to do so. The Chair and Vice Chair serve 2-year terms to provide continuity. A Local Arrangements Coordinator (appointed by the prior year’s meeting attendees annually) organizes the Committee's annual meeting. The Secretary (elected by the membership for a 2-year term) submits minutes of annual meetings, coordinates submission of annual reports, helps maintain the group’s social media accounts, uploads materials to the NIMSS website, and will be in charge of the group’s new public webpage. The group has a listserv that facilitates interaction among committee members and has long functioned as the principal venue of discourse among Committee members in between face-to-face meetings. Beginning with W5001, the group will have an Executive Committee, comprised of the past chair, current chair, vice chair (chair-elect), and secretary. The Executive Committee will provide leadership continuity and serve as the advisory board for the Chair and the arbiter and review body of Committee’s materials and activities (e.g., award nominations, renewal proposal, overseeing event coordination).

Literature Cited

References

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