- Counties with a higher number of independent grocery stores per capita are concentrated in rural areas
To examine the number and location of independent grocery stores, a recent ERS study used Nielsen’s TDLinx data on grocery stores—stores with a full line of major food departments and at least $1 million in sales. Independent grocery stores are those whose owners operate fewer than four stores. In 2015, 21,510 independent grocery stores generated $70 billion in sales, or 11 percent of U.S. grocery sales. The study found that independent grocery stores outnumber chain grocery stores in remote rural counties not adjacent to urban counties. In 2015, remote rural counties had an average of 2.1 independent grocery stores compared with 1.9 chain grocery stores. Of the 319 U.S. counties with more than three independent grocery stores for every 10,000 residents, 91 percent of them were remote rural counties or rural counties adjacent to an urban county. Close to half of these 319 counties were located in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana.
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides participants with electronic benefits to purchase food in authorized retail food stores. In fiscal 2016, over $66 billion in SNAP benefits were redeemed, accounting for about 10 percent of the Nation’s spending on food at home. As of September 2016, 260,115 stores were authorized to accept SNAP. Convenience stores accounted for the largest share of SNAP stores (45 percent), but less than 6 percent of all SNAP benefits were redeemed in these smaller stores. Conversely, large super stores, which sell a wide variety of food and nonfood items, and supermarkets together accounted for only 14 percent of SNAP stores, but 81 percent of national SNAP redemptions. Super stores and supermarkets generally have a wider variety of foods and lower prices than smaller stores. Because SNAP benefits are for a fixed dollar amount, participants have an incentive to stretch their benefits by seeking out the best values when choosing where to spend their benefits.
The share of U.S. agricultural imports from regions consisting primarily of developed economies remained stable from 1995 to 2015, at just over 60 percent. This contrasts with the destinations for U.S. agricultural exports, which shifted further toward developing regions. There was a compositional shift in import shares, however, from one developed region to another. In particular, a decline in the share of U.S. agricultural imports supplied by Europe was offset almost exactly by an increase in the share supplied by Canada and Mexico. Canada (a high-income economy) and Mexico (an upper-middle-income economy) are partners of the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), whose trade-liberalizing provisions were gradually applied to intraregional agricultural trade during the 1994-2007 period. With respect to other parts of the world, the import shares from fast-growing exporters in South America and the former Soviet Union declined, even as those regions increased their participation in the global agricultural market. There were modest increases in import shares from developing East Asia and South Asia, which is consistent with their growing roles in global trade.
Declining birth rates, increasing mortality rates among working-age adults, and an aging population have led to the emergence of natural decrease (more deaths than births) in hundreds of U.S. counties—most of them rural counties. During 2010-16, 325 rural counties experienced sustained natural decrease for the first time, adding to 645 rural counties with natural decrease during 2000-09. Areas that recently began experiencing natural decrease (the dark blue areas) are found in New England, northern Michigan, and high-poverty areas in the southern Coastal Plains. Such counties also are found in and around the margins of Appalachia, expanding a large region of natural decrease extending from Maine through northern Alabama. Between 2000 and 2016, over a thousand rural counties still experienced population growth from natural increase (more births than deaths).
A recent ERS study used data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at how households with at least one obese child differ from households without any obese children. The study found that the parents with obese children were less likely to be married, employed, or have a college degree. For example, the shares of fathers and mothers who were employed were lower among obese-child households (87 percent for fathers and 60 percent for mothers) relative to parents in nonobese-child households (93 percent for fathers and 63 percent for mothers). In addition, less than a quarter of fathers and mothers had a college degree or higher among obese-child households, whereas more than one third of fathers and mothers had the same level of education among nonobese-child households.
New research from the Carsey School of Public Policy, in a brief named “2020 Census Faces Challenges in Rural America,” identifies rural areas where special outreach and operations will be needed to get a complete and accurate count. It also addresses key Census-related issues that will be important for rural leaders to monitor between now and April 1, 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau has released “Highlights from the 2016 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE),” which provides single-year median household income and poverty statistics. The report includes many county-level maps showing income and poverty rates in 2016 and changes from 2007 to 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a report, “Rural America in Crisis: The Changing Opioid Overdose Epidemic.” Authors discuss the history of the opioid epidemic and its effect on rural communities, as well as key functions of public health programs that can help prevent opioid overdoses.
Poverty is not evenly distributed throughout the United States. Americans living in poverty tend to be clustered in certain U.S. regions and counties. Nonmetro (rural) counties with a high incidence of poverty are mainly concentrated in the South, which had an average poverty rate of nearly 22 percent between 2011 and 2015. Rural counties with the most severe poverty are located in historically poor areas of the Southeast—including the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia—as well as on Native American lands, predominantly in the Southwest and North Central Midwest. The incidence of rural poverty is relatively low elsewhere, but generally more widespread than in the past due to a number of factors. For example, declining employment in the manufacturing sector since the 1980s contributed to the spread of poverty in the Midwest and the Northeast. Another factor is rapid growth in Hispanic populations over the 1990s and 2000s—particularly in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Georgia. This group tends to be poorer than non-Hispanic whites. Finally, the 2007-09 recession resulted in more widespread rural poverty.
BroadbandUSA released Sustaining Broadband Networks: A Toolkit for Local and Tribal Governments to help local and tribal governments meet the current and future broadband needs of their communities. The Toolkit discusses five actions to support long-term broadband network sustainability.
The U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain access to opportunity, encouraging economic development in historically underutilized areas, and promoting employment growth. SBA Webinar series on the HUBZone program can be found here. The webinars are designed to help small businesses get and maintain their HUBZone certification, survive HUBZone status protests to contracts, maintain good recordkeeping to ensure compliance in the program, locate HUBZones, and compete for HUBZone contracts.
The Federal Reserve has aggregated transaction-level data from Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC), and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which, collectively, invest several billion dollars into low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities each year.
The recent tax law created a new vehicle, “Opportunity Zones” (Section 13823), to spur investment in companies and projects in distressed communities. As covered in detail during a recent SSTI members-only webinar, the tax incentive provides investors who reinvest capital gains into these zones with the ability to defer taxes on those gains and, if the Opportunity Zone investment is held at least 10 years, to waive taxes on any new capital gains. Zones must be declared this spring by each state’s governor, and only 25 percent of a state’s high poverty or low income census tracts may be included.
With more than 30 percent of rural America still lacking access to what the FCC considers adequate broadband, governors from across the country are working toward diverse strategies to build rural broadband capacity. By providing rural communities with access to full-speed, stable broadband, these governors hope that they can revitalize rural communities by helping small business formation and expansion as well as improve educational achievement/workforce training for rural citizens. Governors have announced new initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wyoming, and in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is calling for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule changes to increase access to broadband internet across the country.
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is accepting grant proposals for its Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) for projects that focus on youth and incorporate culture and tradition to address social issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, mental health or other social issues in Native communities. First Nations expects to award approximately 20 grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 each for projects of no longer than one year in length. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, March 8, 2018. Meanwhile, there will be a free Question & Answer (Q&A) webinar for interested applicants on February 14, 2018, at 1 p.m. MT. It will provide an opportunity for applicants to ask general questions about the Native Youth and Culture Fund, the grant application, selection criteria, guidelines or other topics. Participation in the webinar is NOT mandatory, but applicants are strongly encouraged to register and attend.