Monday, April 06, 2015

73% of rural Illinois residents say state's economic prospects for families are only getting worse

Rural residents in Illinois consider the state to be a poor place to live and think the economy will only get worse in the next five years, says a study by researchers at Western Illinois University, writes former state legislator and state agency director Jim Nowlan for The Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus. The poll of 1,450 found that 49 percent think Illinois is a poor place to live and only 26 percent feel the state is a good place to live. Of those same respondents, 73 percent said overall economic prospects for families will be worse in five years.

Migration and a lack of jobs are the main problems, Nowlan writes. "Rural Illinois lost 12 percent of its population between ages zero to 44 just between 2000 and 2010, according to data provided by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at WIU." Sociologist Cythnia Struthers, who conducted the poll, told Nowlan, “Many people (in rural Illinois) are tired. They often don’t see a way the tide is going to turn back, and once into a spiral of decline it is difficult to come back.”

Richard Longworth, author of "Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism," is not optimistic about the future of rural America, Rowlan writes. "The forces, Longworth says, that tend to push people out of rural Illinois are unrelenting: jobs are in the city; farms continue consolidating; the jobs in small scale assembly industries that rural towns recruited to their industrial parks easily are outsourced overseas."

Longworth "says that 'This country is just waking up to the pathology of its new white underclass (much of it in rural America)—the same unemployment, the same bad schools and drug use, the same familial breakdown, the same hopelessness' as in the urban black underclass," Rowlan writes.

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