Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide

It’s time for the narrative to shift from urban vs. rural to a shared economic future. Bridging the economic divide between urban and rural areas will require states, regions and localities to understand and bolster the relationship between urban and rural areas in economically meaningful and strategic ways.

The results of this study show that urban and rural labels do not need to be limiting or defining factors in determining the economic success of cities and towns. Broadening the definition of the “urban-rural divide” from population and density measures, to one that accounts for economic interconnectedness, further refines our understanding of how to develop an effective economic development strategy. The consequences of failing to think beyond conventional notions of “urban” and “rural” will limit the ability of state and local leaders to encourage sustainable growth.

This study also reveals that an evidence-based pathway to narrowing urban and rural economic divides where they exist is by bolstering the economic relationships between urban and rural areas. Traditional economic development approaches to narrow the divide tend to focus solely on supporting critical infrastructure and other foundations for rural areas. Although this type of asset building is vitally important, it in and of itself does not generate new drivers of economic growth. A cluster approach can be adapted for a rural context to build and strengthen value chains, market access, and other urban-rural economic relationships. With intention, states, regions, and cities can make progress to improve not only local outcomes but regional and state ones as well.

Attached document published April 2018

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