(by Angela Paulk, US PC volunteer)
The problems of rural citizens in the United States and around the world are similar to a degree. However, let us speak only of the problems which U.S. citizens face. The problems of rural Americans can be identified basically as a lack of having. Compared to their fellow Americans living in urban areas, they lack equality in: culture, education, healthcare, job opportunities, public transportation, and variety.
Let us not consider rural communities, which are tourists attractions, or rural communities which are which in relative distance to large cities, because the real problems of rural citizens do not apply to those people. Larger city resources and opportunities are much easier to attain in those areas.
Let us discuss the lack of culture
In every small American town, or village there is at least a library. However, these libraries are the only cultural investment in many of these rural communities. There are no museums, theaters or concert halls. Arts can be appreciated only through school field trips or family excursions to larger cities. Even the lack of movie theaters and clubs for young children is a problem. Lack of having anything to do gives children more reason and more time to try something new — like experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Another problem is that of education and transportation
Let me explain…Considering that in America, state and city taxes pay for social services such as education and public transportation, it is a realistic observation that poorer communities will not and do not have the same amenities as their counterparts in larger cities.
For example, in a large city like Atlanta, many corporations, wealthy investors, and families pay heavy taxes which contribute to the city public services. However, looking at a small rural farming community without industry, one would realize that the percentage of taxes taken from farmers will never equal to those contributed by people in the Atlanta. More people, more industry, more taxes — less people, no industry, fewer taxes.
Taxes pay for schools. Larger city schools and suburbs will always have more monies invested in their school systems. Again, let us take Atlanta city and suburb schools. In the early late eighties they were the first to receive computers and internet access in the classroom. Only a few years later in the early and mid-ninties did rural farming communities receive or have access to the same opportunities that city school children received years before. The differences in education between rural students and urban students, result in higher test score for students living in and near large cities. Those with higher test scores on college entrance exams receive access to better universities and even scholarship opportunities. Again, rural citizens must suffer the consequences.
As for public transport…More likely than not, busing systems will not be available to rural citizens. Other than the school buses for children, no other transportation is provided for citizens, unless taxes are raised.
A community lacking culture, the best in education for school-aged children (and most likely no opportunity for higher education at colleges or universities) and public transportation does not sound too attractive to prospective professional citizens. So, it is no surprise that the best doctors, lawyers, and other professionals are not drawn to these small communities. This fact brings us to the problem of healthcare. If the best doctors and specialists are in larger cities, then either rural citizens suffer or they go to the large cities. Although rural doctors are very capable and well-qualified, they are no specialists. People with serious diseases such as cancer must be treated in larger cities. Going to the city itself is a burdensome activity. The costs for transportation, lodging, the medical service itself, and the time off work are high. So, again, the wealthy may benefit while the poor are left to suffer.
A great feature of many American towns is the 911 service. 911 is an emergency phone number which when dialed can be automatically traced to the caller’s residence. 911 provides police, fire and medical service in a short amount of time. However, most rural communities are without this public service. The costs of this are expensive, and unless citizens are willing to pay higher taxes they must continue to endure the lack of service.
(It is important to realize that in the U.S. people often lives miles apart — do a bus route that takes one hour to get to the center of the town, may only serve three families. Whereas a one hour bus route in Atlanta serves thousands of people. In small communities some services just are not logically wise investments.)
The lack of public transportation is not a great problem for most Americans, because most Americans have cars. However, for those folks who do not have cars, they are in a sense, stranded. One needs a car to purchase food, clothes, to see a doctor, or even to vote. Poor people in the America’s rural areas suffer from a lack of many things.
All these things mentioned are justifiable reasons for the rural citizens wanting to leave for better opportunities and services in larger cities. So, it is no surprise that a community’s most talented citizens leave to make more money, enjoy more culture, and raise their families in a well-funded community.
We can identify this as a universal problem. Small cities have a hard time improving their problems because the citizens most capable of producing a thriving community, move away. Young people must be willing to realize that the problems of rural communities can only be solved if they stay to make them better. Until then, larger cities like Atlanta, and even Moscow, will continue to attract the most talented people — and their citizens will continue receiving the better opportunities for education, healthcare, and public services.
Is there a solution?
Provide more scholarship opportunities to lower income communities — to smaller communities. Encourage students to go to colleges and universities and bring back what they have learned to their rural communities. These young talented people will encourage business and cultural growth in the community. It is necessary for the young to make the decision to improve their communities.
(by Angela Paulk, US PC volunteer)