The prevalence and depth of poverty in the rural U.S. : a result of a "rural effect" or weak social structures?
Gonzalez Bocinski, Sarah.
Thesis (M.P.P.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Empirical studies consistently find that non-metropolitan status is negatively associated with poverty. But why is poverty more prevalent and deep in rural areas of the United States than in urban places? Many studies have tried to explain the pervasiveness of rural poverty as a result of individual characteristics and structural conditions. Both of these factors have been found to affect poverty rates, but neither completely explains poverty in rural places and suggests that there is a "rural effect" beyond structural conditions and individual characteristics that makes rural residents more likely to live in poverty than if they lived in an urban area.; To answer this question, this study will examine differences in rural and urban poverty as a function of not only individual characteristics but of a more robust measure of contextual characteristics including an area's natural environment, economic structure, demographic characteristics, public and community institutions, and social norms and cultural environment.; Few studies have examined the effects of social and community capacity as a determinant of an area's poverty rate. This study hypothesizes that the prevalence of rural poverty and "rural effect" can be explained by weak social capital and community infrastructure. Using a combined dataset of the 2007 Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, County Characteristics, and the National Center for Charitable Studies, I use a Blinder-Oaxaca Decomposition model to estimate the likelihood of an individual's poverty status based on non-metropolitan or metropolitan residency and individual and contextual characteristics. I hypothesize that by controlling for social capital and community capacity, the size of the "rural effect" should be significantly reduced if not eliminated.; When additional contextual characteristics at the PUMA level are included in the model, the effect of being an urban resident on one's likelihood of living in poverty is reduced to -0.24 percentage points and is no longer statistically significant. Results from the Blinder-Oaxaca Decomposition find that 86.84 percent of the difference in poverty can be explained by structural and social characteristics. This suggests that metropolitan status is not a key determinant of poverty but that rural poverty is strongly correlated with an area's structural characteristics.
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