How small-town America’s surprising success reshapes our understanding of the nation’s urban-rural divide, offering “the most balanced and broadest-ranging look at the topic” (Tyler Cowen, George Mason University). The Next Big Idea Club 2023 Must Read Book
We are frequently told rural America is in crisis. According to many journalists, academics, and politicians, our small towns have been hollowed out by lost jobs, and residents have turned to opioids and right-wing extremism to cope with their pain and resentment. In fact, many rural towns are thriving. Commentators have fixated on the steep decline of one region—Appalachia—and overlooked the millions of rural Americans who are succeeding in the heartland.
In The Overlooked Americans, public policy expert Elizabeth Currid-Halkett reveals that rural America has not been left behind the rest of the nation but instead is surprisingly successful. Drawing on deep research, including data and in-depth interviews, she traces how small towns are doing as well as, or better than, cities by many measures, including homeownership, income, and employment. She also shows how rural and urban Americans share core values, from opposing racism and upholding environmentalism to believing in democracy. Looking everywhere from Missouri to Minnesota to her hometown of Danville, Pennsylvania, Currid-Halkett ultimately reveals that the nation is less fractured by geography than many believe.
This is an urgent appeal for Americans to reconnect across a rural-urban divide that isn’t so wide after all.
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Elizabeth Currid-Halkett is the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California.The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she holds the Kluge Chair in Modern Culture at the Library of Congress. Her research has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, and New Yorker. The author of three previous books, she lives in Los Angeles, California. Her website can be found here.