WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service released the 2023 Rural America at a Glance Report. This annual report examines rural trends across issues such as population and migration, poverty, housing insecurity, employment, and clean energy jobs. The report found that the U.S. rural population is growing again after a decade of overall population loss. It also found that the rural population is experiencing declines in persistent poverty, as well as rural employment levels and annual growth rates nearly returning to those seen in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, highlighting an emerging employment area of interest in rural America, the report shows that approximately one percent of rural workers now hold clean energy jobs.
“For far too long, rural Americans have felt the pain that comes from the loss of families, farmers, and businesses from their communities. Fewer families mean fewer kids in schools, meaning schools must merge or close altogether. It means fewer customers for small town businesses, who then have to close shop and give way to big box retail stores. Family farms have been forced to ‘get big or get out’ – leading to larger farms and fewer farmers. Kids growing up in these communities, seeing a lack of opportunities in their hometowns, don’t see any option available to them other than moving to the cities to make a living.
“This reality is why USDA under the Biden-Harris Administration – by using market, climate, and food systems and leveraging the historic investments available from the President’s American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act – is focused on increasing economic opportunities and building prosperity in rural America. The findings of the 2023 Rural America at a Glance report demonstrate the meaningful progress our work is making towards achieving these goals.
“For the first time in a decade, the population of rural America is growing again, with more and more Americans moving to rural communities. Rural employment has almost fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to grow. In particular, the emergence of the clean energy economy as a growing employment sector mirrors the tremendous interest USDA has seen for its efforts to build and strengthen this economy in rural America, which will further lower energy costs, strengthen energy security, and create more good-paying jobs.
“Despite this good news, the report makes clear that challenges remain. Rural poverty has declined in most – but not all – rural counties. In addition, more than half of extremely low-income rural renter households experienced housing insecurity – yet another reminder of the critical role USDA housing programs play in ensuring vulnerable rural Americans are able to have a roof over their heads, and the need to protect these programs from devastating cuts.
“USDA is committed to continuing its consequential work to build prosperity in rural America and give all Americans the chance to succeed in the communities they love.”
–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
USDA Economic Research Service