Even though the Census Bureau has defined "rural" as those populations, housing, or territories NOT in an urban area (i.e. Everything Else), we recommend directing your attention to this map. Hopefully, you'll notice there is no such thing as "Everything Else." This map of the United States does not reveal or revel in the idea of an Other. Rather, it shows that rural is every bit an integral piece of America as New York or Atlanta.
But it is true that it often feels as if these spaces have been made invisible, irrelevant, and insignificant to many people we share this country with. And that's no accident. Rural poverty was formed and compounded by policy choices like the enslavement of pan-African people in the Mississippi Delta and Black Belt, the taking of land and life from tribal nations, Latin (o.a.x.) & Hispanic people throughout the country and along the U.S. - Mexico border, and the extraction of natural resources from Appalachia.
Rural poverty was formed and compounded by policy choices
Today, the consequence of that history is reflected in other forms of distress and structural exclusion, like high unemployment, low wages, and lack of truly affordable housing & safe drinking water. Those grievances have proven to be as persistent as they are pervasive. There's even a term for that staying power: persistent poverty. It's the phrase used to describe counties and parishes where the poverty rate has surpassed 20% for three decades in a row.
A designation for counties and parishes where the poverty rate has surpassed 20% for three decades in a row.
We share common space with 353 persistently impoverished counties in the Unites States. 301 (or 85.3%) of those persistent-poverty counties are nonmetro, part of the alleged Everything Else of our country. That's why we're sharing our stories from within these areas. To change attitudes that drive policy and investment and to build off our shared experience of living within spaces marked by decades of intentional disinvestment.
There are 353
persistently impoverished counties in the United States
So keep this map handy while exploring our stories. Take note of the American spaces they describe. They're not "everything else." They're where we call home. These markers indicate the places where our stories take place.