CALL FOR PROPOSALS
State and Local Government Review
2020 Special Issue
“Addressing the ‘Urban-Rural Divide’ through Innovative, Place-Based Policies”
Michael J. Scicchitano, University of Florida, Editor
John Accordino, Virginia Commonwealth University, Guest Editor
This special issue on Addressing the “Urban-Rural Divide” seeks essays that document best practices in innovative place-based development that have the potential to inform federal, state or local public policy.
In recent years, newspaper headlines and commentators have bemoaned a growing “urban-rural divide,” characterized by the decline of small farms, rural towns and small cities, and the rapid growth of many metropolitan areas. Regional economists and other scholars have identified several drivers of these differential growth rates, including changes in industrial structure (what we produce), changes in production technology (how we produce, particularly the increased pace of automation), and the growing importance of innovation, design and finance functions that favor major metropolitan areas. A number of agglomeration economies in metro areas, including “thick labor pools” of highly educated and well-compensated talent, create self-perpetuating growth dynamics there. (Moretti 2012) Precisely because of these agglomeration economies, major metropolitan areas tend to be more resilient – to recover more quickly from economic downturns – than even smaller metropolitan places. (Muro and Whiton 2017)
At the same time, changes in industrial structure and production technology have reduced employment in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors, leading to often-dramatic employment losses in rural areas and smaller cities. One result has been the outmigration of the working-age population, especially younger workers, leaving an increasingly dependent population behind. These changes, in turn, have hollowed out the retail and services sectors in these communities, reducing tax revenues and undermining local-government financial health and capacity. (Drabenstott 2010)
Sociologists, political scientists and others have documented the psychological and political fall-out of these trends, citing feelings of being “left behind” and the growth of a community “politics of resentment” toward urban areas whose residents are perceived to have unfairly jumped to the front of the line to the American Dream. (Wuthnow 2018, Cramer 2016) This resentment results in less trust of government, and therefore unwillingness to support even policies that might help such areas. Attitude surveys that divide the population into “rural,” “suburban” and “urban” populations document these resentments. (Parker, et al. 2018)
Without contradicting these findings, some regional scholars have painted a more nuanced picture. They point out that the categories “rural,” “urban” and “suburban” do not adequately describe the reality on the ground. In fact, these geographic entities are not separate, but linked, somewhat, economically, socially, environmentally and culturally, and constitute something of a continuum. The US Department of Agriculture describes nine gradients on this continuum, with over two-thirds of the “rural” population living either in or adjacent to a metro area, or in a county with one or more cities with a population of at least 20,000. (Isserman 2001)
As Isserman (2001) points out, many rural areas are thriving economically, but they have been incorporated into metropolitan areas, and thus are no longer counted by the Census Bureau as “rural.” Many of these erstwhile rural communities face challenges to their way of life caused not by decline, but by unmanaged growth, as metro areas continue to expand. Even in regions that have suffered structural decline, some small cities and towns have found ways to marshal grassroots-based energy, connect local assets with opportunities, and revitalize. (Fallows and Fallows, 2018) Stauber (2001) cites four types of rural area – urban periphery, sparsely populated, high amenity, and high poverty. The latter include regions that have suffered long-term, structural poverty, such as the Mississippi Delta Region and Appalachia. Each type of community faces different challenges. If it is to be helpful, public policy must comprehend such differences. Moreover, and notwithstanding the challenges that many rural areas face, the polarization of incomes and life prospects presents challenges both inside and outside of urban areas; public policy must comprehend this reality as well.
The United States, like other countries, is developing a 21st century “system of cites” in response to changes in technology and industrial structure. Spatial shifts in economic activity and population are a consequence of this, but various scenarios are possible within this general picture. Although global innovation, finance and communication centers seem destined to continue to grow and dominate, public policy could play important roles in connecting places within the economic hierarchy, and establishing the conditions for a high quality of life in places along the entire urban-rural continuum. Both policies that stabilize places suffering structural decline, and policies that support and stimulate the development of new, innovative economic activities are necessary.
In light of both economic and political realities facing the United States today, it seems likely that only a strategic combination of sectoral, spatial and grassroots-based policies will be equal to the task. Sectoral policies include (but are not limited to) business and entrepreneurship development, education and workforce development, food access, housing and health care support. Spatial policies are important as well, particularly to confront and manage the shifting fortunes of places along the urban-rural continuum. These include (but are not limited to) support for collaborative regional partnerships among localities that may consolidate services in structurally challenged regions, invest in new economic ventures, strengthen regional supply chains, or build infrastructure (including broadband) that stimulates economic activity by connecting hitherto disconnected places. And to the greatest extent practicable, policies must be grassroots-based, supporting local entrepreneurship, community action, public-private partnerships, and local government capacity enhancement, thereby building local trust, confidence, and the capacity to take on more ambitious initiatives.
The purpose of this special issue is to identify innovative, place-based policies and practices that hold promise for stabilizing and revitalizing places along the urban-rural continuum, and especially for strengthening positive urban-rural linkages. We seek to publish six to ten short essays (1,400 – 1,600 words each, plus graphics if appropriate), embedded within an issue-length paper on policies and practices for addressing the urban-rural divide.
Each essay will:
- Provide an overview of the policy area – the problem, challenge, or opportunity. Those areas described above are of particular interest, but other policy areas are welcome also.
- Describe one or more best-practice examples that could be replicated nationally or regionally.
- Explain the funding or financing implications of such replication (federal, state, local).
- Explain how the policy does one or more of the following: supports regional collaboration among public sector entities, encourages public-private partnerships, engages the grassroots, supports entrepreneurship, and builds local capacity.
Please provide a one-page proposal (no more than 250 words) that describes how your essay satisfies the four criteria above. Please briefly describe the source(s) of information for your essay, e.g. secondary data, empirical research, personal experience. You will need to document these in your essay.
Please note that the turnaround time on this project is short. To ensure consideration, please submit your proposal no later than Friday, October 11, 2019. Please send proposals to:
John Accordino, Guest Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Edwin Benton, SLGR Managing Editor at email@example.com
Please note the following dates:
Friday, October 11, 2019 – 250 word proposal due.
Monday, October 16 – decision on proposals and feedback to authors.
Friday, December 6 – full draft of essay due to State and Local Government Review.
Friday, December 16 – review and feedback to authors on essays.
Monday, January 16, 2020 – final, revised essay due to State and Local Government Review.
March/April 2020 – anticipated publication of special issue.
We encourage proposals from practitioners and from scholars in all academic disciplines, including but not limited to public administration, political science, sociology, economics, urban and regional planning, and geography. We are particularly interested in essays that involve collaboration between academics and practitioners.
Cramer, Katherine J. 2016. The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Drabenstott, Mark. April 13, 2010. Past Silos and Smokestacks: A Rural Development Proposal. The Daily Yonder, http://www.dailyyonder.com, accessed June 3, 2010.
Fallows, James and Deborah Fallows. 2018. Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America. New York: Pantheon Books.
Isserman, Andrew M. 2001. Competitive Advantages of Rural America in the Next Century. International Regional Science Review 24, 1:38-58.
Moretti, Enrico. 2012. The New Geography of Jobs. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Muro, Mark and Jason Whiton. October 17, 2017. Big Cities, Small Cities – and the Gaps, Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2017/10/17big-cities-and-the-gaps/, accessed August 23, 2019.
Parker, Kim, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Anna Brown, Richard Fry, D’Vera Cohn, and Ruth Igielnik. May 22, 2018. What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/what-unites-and-divides-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/, accessed August 6, 2019.
Stauber, Karl N. 2001. Why Invest in Rural America—And How? A Critical Public Policy Question for the 21st Century. Kansas City: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Wuthnow, Robert. 2018. The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.