About 1 in 5 Americans (17%) live in rural areas. A careful study of rural areas reveals a great deal of demographic and economic diversity. The proportion of the total population and the absolute numbers of children that are rural continue to shrink, although urban expansion, high immigration and birth rates, and the migration of retirees all have boosted the population in some rural areas. In addition to changes in population size, rural areas also are becoming more diverse racially, ethnically, and economically. In general, lower levels of human capital, higher underemployment rates, and lower wages distinguish rural economies compared to urban centers. Poverty is more prevalent and more persistent in rural America. Nearly 14 percent of rural Americans live below the poverty line and 95 percent of persistent-poverty counties, designated so if 20 percent or more of their populations were living in poverty over the last 30 years, are rural.
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