CityLab -The New Census Portrait of Rural America in 2016
December 10, 2016
New Census data show that the real differences between the city and the country may not match up with popular perception.
CityLab. That rural-urban divide you’ve been hearing about? It happened back in 1920, when the number of Americans who lived in cities overtook those who lived in the countryside.
In the years since, urban centers have ballooned in population, while the spaces in between have housed roughly the same number of residents. As cities became the nation’s economic powerhouses, drawing folks from all around the world, older, whiter rural America has felt left behind—overshadowed, economically and culturally, by the urban elites, and passed over in favor of the “undeserving” urban poor.
With the election of 2016, the dam holding back this mounting tide of rural resentment has broken, and in its wake we have two Americas cast upon opposite ends of the political spectrum. Donald Trump, perhaps the most citified candidate in American political history, ran a campaign that denigrated cities and the people who have historically lived in them. But it worked—and he won the votes of rural U.S. counties (and some small urban ones) overwhelmingly. Hillary Clinton, who dominated big cities and grabbed the national popular vote, still lost the election.
Who were the rural Americans that were instrumental in creating the current political reality? Joining a chorus of conversations on this topic comes the Census Bureau, bearing fresh data that helps paint a clearer, more nuanced picture of this famously aggrieved segment of the American population.