"Nobody — not experts or policymakers or people in these communities — seems to know quite how to pick rural America up. States, municipalities and the federal government have spent billions to draw jobs and prosperity to stagnant rural areas. But they haven’t yet figured out how to hitch this vast swath of the country to the tech-heavy economy that is flourishing in America’s cities."
|Share of county population not employed, 2015 (Brookings Institution map)|
"What if nothing really works? Is there really no option but to do nothing and, as some have suggested, return depopulated parts of rural America to the bison? Instead of so-called place-based policies to revitalize small towns, why not help their residents take advantage of opportunities where the opportunities are? Geographic mobility hit a historical low in 2017, when only 11 percent of Americans picked up shop and moved — half the rate of 1951. One of the key reasons is that housing in the prosperous cities that offer the most opportunities has become too expensive."
Porter quotes Brookings' William Galston: “Think through the political consequences of saying to a substantial portion of Americans, which is even more substantial in political terms, ‘We think you’re toast.’” Porter concludes, "The distress of 50 million Americans should concern everyone. Powerful economic forces are arrayed against rural America and, so far, efforts to turn it around have failed. Not every small town can be a tech hub, nor should it be. But that can’t be the only answer."
UPDATE, Dec. 17: It's not, Roberto Gallardo writes for The Daily Yonder. And Jim Branscome writes for the Yonder that Porter has not written any news, but history.