Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frontier still exists; millions of Americans live on it

We've all read that the Census Bureau declared the American frontier closed in 1890. But while the westward-moving, north-south line vanished from maps, the frontier persisted in many places, under the census definition of fewer than 6 people per square mile. And with recent population losses in the Great Plains and other rural areas, the frontier has in some sense reappeared, as Deborah and Frank Popper make clear today for the Daily Yonder, with an article and this map (click on it for a larger image):
"This vast remnant frontier has never drawn the national attention that the pre-1890 one got. The New Mexico-based National Center for Frontier Communities (on whose board we serve) estimates that the frontier has approximately 5.6 million people, about 1.8 percent of the population on 46.7 percent of the land area. The NCFC definition, which depends on both density and distance from metropolitan areas, shows that people living in small, remote places with poor transportation and communication links to the rest of the country are disproportionately poor and elderly."

Frontier areas have 5.6 million people with special needs, the Poppers note, and they give details. They conclude, "Frontier justice once meant gunslingers and local lawmen, vigilantes and posses. It was often rough, terrible. Today we need a new kind of frontier justice, fairer national treatment for a vital but overlooked American place." (Read more)

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