City mouse, country mouse

Over at, Kevin Drum takes on Paul Krugman over his assertion that small-town America is aggrieved because the working-age men are more likely to be unemployed than their metropolitan counterparts. As usual, Kevin brings the charts and numbers to show that while Krugman isn’t wrong, the differences are small and don’t explain “white rural rage.” Kevin notes that while pay is less in rural areas, the difference is mostly compensated by the lower cost of housing.

So whence the grievance and anger? Kevin points the finger at right-wing media:

“So what’s really going on? I’d guess that part of the answer is economic, but not at the individual level. Main street shops have gone away. Rural hospitals have shut down. The nearest doctor may be 50 miles away. There’s no access to broadband internet.

“This kind of slow lifestyle deterioration is unquestionably discouraging, but it’s not really the sort of thing that produces rage. That’s more likely to come from cultural issues like abortion, immigration, race, gay and trans rights, and so forth. I’m still guessing a bit here, but in the past the cultural difference between urban and rural wasn’t quite so stark. Mores were relatively conservative everywhere—in public, at least—and in any case, urban debauchery was a long way away. Today it’s only as far away as your TV set, and urban culture overwhelms contemporary TV, especially among cable outlets. That can feel pretty oppressive.

“Economically, though, I just don’t see it. Rural areas today aren’t doing any worse than rural areas have always done. The city is where you once went to make your fortune, and it still is.”

I can certainly believe that this is exacerbated by the closing of retail, schools and hospitals in rural communities. The bucolic setting of rural America no longer compensates for the loss of local amenities.

Economics and white rural rage