Publications » Newsletter

Email You can now receive our news and information via e-mail. To sign up for email delivery of our news, click here.
Newsletter Archive Newsletter Archive

January/February 2004

Inside This Issue:

 

Center Announces 2004 Grant Projects
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is kicking off its 2004 Grant Program this month and is looking forward to another year of garnering important research and technical information.

In November 2003, the Center’s Board of Directors awarded more than $500,000 in grant monies to seven faculty from the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) universities and four faculty from the Pennsylvania State University’s main and Commonwealth campuses.

This year’s projects focus on topics that include affordable housing, the meat and poultry processing industries, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Following is a summary of the 2004 grant projects.

Pennsylvania Meat and Poultry Industry: Identifying Barriers and Needs for Small Processors
Dr. William R. Henning of Pennsylvania State University will survey 450 Pennsylvania meat and poultry plants to analyze the existing slaughter and processing capabilities in the state, and document the barriers and opportunities for small processors and livestock producers. Henning will also gather together industry representatives to find effective solutions to issues identified in the survey. One product of the research will be an inventory that will provide buyers, consumers and other processors with contact information and processing capacity.

Substance Abuse in Rural Pennsylvania: Present and Future
Dr. Laurie Roehrich of Indiana University of Pennsylvania will examine rates and trends of substance abuse in rural Pennsylvania, create inventories of treatment, prevention and model programs, perform a cost analysis summary of literature on rural substance use, and create and mail a survey aimed at rural Pennsylvania treatment providers in 12 counties statewide.

Inventory and Evaluation of HIV/AIDS Support Networks in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Mark Kilwein of Clarion University of Pennsylvania will investigate services and local support networks available to rural Pennsylvanians living with HIV/AIDS. This investigation will analyze the kinds of data available, and then summarize and report the data; observe current trends and make short term predictions of rural infection rates; describe current services available and the role of the state in funding and supporting these services; make comparisons between Pennsylvania and other states identified as leaders in the provision of services and data collection; and offer policy recommendations to the General Assembly.

A Study of the Future of Hunting in Pennsylvania
Dr. Thomas D. Wickham of California University of Pennsylvania will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and social surveys in a mixed-method approach to assess the impact of residential relocation, urbanization, and higher education on hunter retention, hunter recruitment and hunting accessibility within Pennsylvania. The researcher will also identify and evaluate laws, regulations and policies affecting hunting participation. From the research, specific policy recommendations will be made to preserve hunting in Pennsylvania.

Agritourism in Pennsylvania: An Industry Assessment
Ms. Susan Ryan of California University of Pennsylvania will provide an assessment of this industry, which is a fusion of agricultural and tourism enterprises. The research will first establish what Pennsylvania currently offers as agritourism, and will then compare the information to a profile of the people who are considered “agritourists.” Experts from the agricultural and tourism industries will be surveyed to identify barriers and opportunities for the industry.

The Consequences of Educational and Career Aspirations and Attainment Among Youth in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Anastasia Snyder of Pennsylvania State University will examine the educational and career aspirations and attainment of youth in rural Pennsylvania. The researcher will administer an in-school survey to approximately 2,000 rural students in Pennsylvania; 1,000 in the 7th grade and 1,000 in the 11th grade. The survey will include questions about individual, family, school and community factors that influence the students’ educational and career goals and ideas about where to live in adulthood.

Market and Labor Force Factors in the Growth of the Wood Products Industry in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. John E. Bodenman of Bloomsburg University will determine the market and resource orientation of the wood products industry in rural Pennsylvania, including market changes from 1987 to the present. The research will help to identify the markets that are driving the demand for rural Pennsylvania’s wood products and the skills, education and demographic characteristics of the work force. The information and analysis will provide a foundation upon which further market development efforts may be built, future workforce needs may be forecast and workforce training programs may be developed for wood manufacturers in rural Pennsylvania.

Affordable Housing in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Rajen Mookerjee of Pennsylvania State University–Beaver will examine housing in rural Pennsylvania, particularly the supply of and demand for affordable housing. The analysis will use publicly available Census data and supplemental data sources to assess housing quality and quantity in all rural Pennsylvania counties. The analysis will quantify housing availability by tenure (own or rent), type, and affordability.

Childhood Asthma in Rural Pennsylvania: Building Schools’ Capacity to Optimize Health
Dr. Marianne Hillemeier of Pennsylvania State University will quantify the childhood asthma burden and rural schools’ capacity to meet children’s needs by: surveying school nurses about asthma management polices and education/support programs; reviewing empirical and policy literature on school asthma management; and analyzing pediatric asthma hospitalization data. The overarching goal of the research is to develop policy interventions that heighten awareness and promote optimal health for rural children with asthma.

Prisons and Rural Communities: Exploring Economic Impact and Community Satisfaction
Dr. Kevin Courtright of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania will measure the perception of the economic impact of and community satisfaction with state correctional facilities located within rural communities in Pennsylvania. As a result of mail surveys to community residents, focus group interviews with government officials and local business leaders, and interviews with prison management (PA Department of Corrections), policy recommendations will be developed that should assist both the department and rural communities who are either considering prison development or looking to improve their existing relationship between the community and the institution.

Impact of Health Choices on Children’s Mental Health Services in Rural Pennsylvania
In this mini grant, Dr. Donald U. Robertson of Indiana University of Pennsylvania will expand on his prior work on the differential impact of mandatory managed care on mental health services in urban and rural counties. Previous analysis of authorization data on children’s mental health services will be extended to utilization data in both the southwest and Lehigh/Capital zones. Similar analyses will be conducted for six adult services. The use of children’s outpatient and Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services in urban and rural counties that do not have mandatory managed care for Medical Assistance consumers will be analyzed.

Looking to 2005
As this year’s grantees begin their projects, the Center’s Board of Directors is identifying research topics that address relevant issues impacting Pennsylvania’s 2.8 million rural residents for 2005. After topics have been identified, the Center will issue the Request for Proposals (RFP).

The Center’s grant program is open to faculty at SSHE and Penn State universities. Cooperation and collaboration between these faculty and other public or private organizations on grant projects is encouraged.

The Grant Program offers a maximum funding level of $50,000 per project per year while the Mini Grant Program offers a maximum of $10,000 for nine months.

Mini grants are awarded for projects that focus on basic data collection and analysis, time-sensitive issues, and/or the preparation of reference materials.

For more information about the 2005 RFP or for more information about the 2004 grant projects, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit our website at www.ruralpa.org.

Top


 

Chairman’s Message
As we begin another year, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania continues to look at issues and challenges facing our rural communities. Looking down over the list of research projects that were approved by the Board of Directors in November 2003, I look forward with much anticipation to the results of our research institutions’ academic work. The research will provide state policymakers and local leaders with valuable information that can then be analyzed and applied to creating beneficial programs and improvements, where needed, for the people who live, work and play in rural areas.

While we hope every year brings good health and prosperity to all, there are many people in rural Pennsylvania who are struggling to make ends meet. Finding affordable public housing can be challenging for low-income families and others who find themselves in need of assistance. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania looked at the availability of public housing in rural areas through research conducted by Drs. Pamela C. Twiss and Thomas R. Mueller of California University of Pennsylvania. The researchers examined the size and location of public housing, those who most often live in these units, the length of time that people live in the units, and the role state government may take in ensuring that affordable public housing is available in rural areas. You can read more about the study and the results on page 4.

New Year resolutions are a tradition for most people. Some of us may resolve to become more computer literate in the 365 days that make up the year 2004. One reward for becoming more technologically savvy will be gleaning all of the online information and data that is now available through our Rural Access Guide. The Center recently updated the guide, which was first made available on our website in 2000. Federal, state and nonprofit grants, loans and technical assistance can be found with the click of a mouse when you visit our website at www.ruralpa.org. This could be your link to a brighter future for yourself and your rural community in the year ahead, so plan to give it a try.

I must admit that my capabilities of surfing the web and operating a computer are still on a steep learning curve four years since Y2K, but teaching old dogs new tricks is never easy. Last year, I learned how to send instant messages to my daughter, who is a college freshman. The key is giving it a try and having fun learning something new.

Finally, after reading the Trends article in our last issue of Rural Perspectives, Paul Lyskava, executive director of the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, wrote to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to point out the forest products industry in Pennsylvania includes roughly 3,000 establishments and 90,000 employees. He says: “Pennsylvania leads the nation in the production of hardwood lumber, accounting for about 10 percent of the annual national output. It also produces annual revenue in excess of $5.5 billion.” Sawmills, paper mills and value-added wood producers are included in the entire forest products industry, he noted, along with consulting foresters and independent loggers. Thanks for sharing this information, Paul.

At the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, we are learning something new about Pennsylvania’s rural communities every day. Thanks to all for your interest and input throughout the year. We look forward to hearing from you.

Representative Sheila Miller

Top


 

Public Housing Use in Rural Pennsylvania
Public housing units are scattered across Pennsylvania’s more rural counties, providing needed low-income housing to approximately 9,500 households. While these units are a stable source of housing in the state’s rural counties, and while overall occupancy rates in most counties are quite high, existing data and a survey of public housing executives in 26 counties indicate that occupancy rates have declined in a number of counties. This and other findings are now available in the report, Exploring Public Housing Use in Rural Pennsylvania.

The report is based on a research project sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and conducted by Dr. Pamela C. Twiss and Dr. Thomas R. Mueller of California University of Pennsylvania. The research, conducted in 2002, examined the size and location of the existing public housing stock in rural Pennsylvania; occupancy patterns over the past four years; the demographic characteristics of residents in rural public housing units over the past four years; and the perceptions of public housing authority chief executives regarding potential sources of these changes. The researchers also determined the role that state government can play in maximizing the use of public housing resources in rural Pennsylvania.

Gathering the data
The researchers used existing publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and collected additional data via telephone interviews with public housing managers. The sample for the project consisted of all Pennsylvania counties that were defined as rural by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, according to its 1990 definition, and had a county-level public housing authority. Data on the public housing units in the county also had to be available through HUD’s on-line data sources. The study included 31 rural counties that had both public housing authorities (PHAs) and low-rent units (public housing units). One urban county, Washington, was also included because of its proximity to two distressed rural areas. The rural counties of Adams, Crawford, Forest, Fulton, Juniata, Perry, Pike, Sullivan, Union, and Wayne were excluded from the study because they had either no public housing authority at the county level, only Section 8 units, no low-rent units, or too few units for sufficient data reporting.

Findings
In keeping with the demographics of rural Pennsylvania, the typical public housing resident in the research counties is white and non-Hispanic. The typical public housing resident in these counties is also more likely to have income from wages or a pension, including Social Security, than from welfare. The public housing stock in these counties, like the public housing stock available statewide and nationally, tends to shelter populations with special economic and social vulnerabilities, such as single parent households with young children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Survey data indicate that in most of the counties under study, the percentage of residents with physical or mental disabilities has increased in recent years. Consistent with changing federal policies, the percentage of residents with any income from wages and pensions also appears to be increasing in many of the counties included in this study. The typical public housing resident in these counties remains quite poor, however, with an average household income remaining under $10,000.

This latter finding highlights the continued economic vulnerability of those served by public housing, even when they have income from wages and pensions. It also highlights the need for on-going housing assistance from a variety of sources for poor people and their families in the counties included in this study.

Conclusions
Pennsylvania may be uniquely poised to assist public housing authorities and others engaged in efforts to preserve affordable housing, including the public housing program under HUD. This assistance may take a variety of forms. Based on the comments of the public housing executives surveyed and a review of the literature, it seems appropriate for the state to investigate opportunities to forge partnerships and take leadership in the following areas:

Finally, the contemporary literature on housing policy strongly endorses efforts to develop affordable housing that are community- and locally-driven and that contribute to the total development of the community. The literature on public housing typically notes that stable, well-managed housing resources are critical to healthy families and the development of healthy children, as well as the economic health and well being of entire communities.

Want more info?
For a copy of Exploring Public Housing Use in Rural Pennsylvania, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

Top


 

Pockets of Rural Prosperity
Pennsylvania’s rural areas are often characterized as having lower incomes and lower housing values than urban areas. This characterization isn’t quite accurate, however, since there are some conspicuous pockets of wealth within rural Pennsylvania.

To highlight the diversity of wealth among Pennsylvania’s rural municipalities, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania analyzed the characteristics of rural municipalities whose median household incomes and median housing values were 125 percent of the statewide median.

The Census 2000 statewide median household income was $40,106, and the median value of owner-occupied housing units (or housing values) was $97,000. So, a municipality was considered affluent when the median household income was $50,133 or higher and the median housing value was $121,250 or greater.

For the analysis, a municipality was considered rural when its population density was less than 274 persons per square mile or its total population was less than 2,500 unless more than 50 percent of the population lived in an urbanized area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Findings
Number of Municipalities
In 2000, 312 Pennsylvania municipalities, or 12 percent, met the criteria of affluence. Of these affluent municipalities, 92, or 29 percent, were rural, and 220, or 71 percent, were urban.

Of the 1,654 rural municipalities in Pennsylvania, affluent rural municipalities comprise 6 percent of the total. Urban affluent municipalities make up 24 percent of the total 912 urban municipalities.

Geographically, 59 percent of all affluent rural municipalities were located in southeast and south central Pennsylvania; 89 of these municipalities are townships. Affluent boroughs comprise 11 percent of the total. Affluent rural municipalities are generally clustered together and located near affluent urban municipalities.

Demographics
Among the 92 rural affluent municipalities in Pennsylvania, the average population was about 3,270 in 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, these municipalities had a 17 percent population increase. Along with the increase in population, these municipalities saw a surge in new households, especially those with children. During the 1990s, the number of households in rural affluent municipalities increased 21 percent and the number of married-couples-with-children households increased 4 percent.

According to Census 2000, approximately 3 percent of the residents in affluent rural municipalities lived on a farm. Of the state’s total farm population of 85,370, nearly 9 percent lived in affluent rural municipalities.

Housing
During the 1990s, rural affluent municipalities had a 19 percent increase in housing units. Statewide during this period, the number of housing units increased 6 percent.

Homeownership rates in affluent rural municipalities are higher than the statewide rate. In 2000, more than 86 percent of the occupied units in affluent rural municipalities were owner-occupied and the number of owner-occupied units increased 21 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Employment
Rural affluent municipalities are not employment hubs. More than 87 percent of employed persons living in these municipalities travel outside their municipality to work. The average commuting time is 29 minutes. The majority of persons living in affluent rural communities (70 percent) are employed in management positions or professional or white-collar positions, which include architects, engineers, physicians, and attorneys.

In 2000, the average household income from wages and salaries in affluent rural municipalities was about $62,460, or $10,240 above the statewide average.

Income/Poverty
Census 2000 indicates that the average household income from salaries, wages and unearned sources in affluent rural municipalities was nearly $67,230, or $13,610 above the statewide average. Adjusted for inflation, the average household income in these municipalities increased 11 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Despite the pockets of wealth in rural communities, poverty continues to exist in other rural municipalities. In 2000, approximately 4 percent of the rural population lived below the poverty threshold, or an average of 143 people per municipality.

Education
Rural affluent municipalities have nearly the same percentage of adults with college degrees as the statewide average of 23 percent. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of adults with a college degree in affluent rural communities increased 60 percent. Statewide, there was a 41 percent increase.

Want more info?
For the complete fact sheet, Pockets of Rural Prosperity, call or email the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@ruralpa.org.

Top


 

Trends in Rural Pennsylvania
The Trends in Rural Pennsylvania series will resume in the March/April issue of Rural Perspectives. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is waiting for the release of more current data to report on the remaining topics of local infrastructure, agriculture and economic development.

Top


 

New Programs, Updates Added to Online Database
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has added new programs and updated the current information in its online Rural Access Guide, located at www.ruralpa.org. The updated guide includes more than 360 sources of information on state, federal and nonprofit grants, loans and other assistance programs available to public and nonprofit organizations and individuals.

In 1994, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania first published the Rural Access Guide as a booklet, which was a scaled down version of a much larger database of information. The booklet was widely distributed throughout the state and was well received by rural residents, local government officials, and community organizations.

Since then, the guide has been updated in 2000 and again in January 2004. The latest update of the guide, however, is solely available through the Center’s website.

“Because of the increased use of the Internet and as a cost-saving measure, the Center decided that the guide should be offered on the Center’s website only,” says Director Barry Denk.

As with earlier versions, this database version of the Rural Access Guide is not intended to be the final stop for information.

“It is more of a starting point from which rural and small town residents might more successfully begin their journey through the maze of financial and informational sources that are available at both the state and national levels,” says Rep. Sheila Miller, chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. “We hope that the Rural Access Guide will help rural residents take advantage of more programs that are available to them so that they might continue to answer the needs of their communities.”

To use the Rural Access Guide, visit the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s website at www.ruralpa.org.

Top


 

Did You Know . . .
In 2002 . . .
Pennsylvania had 59,000 farms.
There were 7.7 million acres of farmland in Pennsylvania, which was 24 percent of Pennsylvania’s total land area.
The average size of a farm in Pennsylvania was 131 acres.
37 percent of all farm cash receipts came from milk and dairy products.

Of Pennsylvania’s agricultural commodities:
36.7 percent are dairy products.
9.7 percent are cattle and calves.
9.7 percent are mushrooms.
8.9 percent are from greenhouses/nurseries.
6.9 percent are chicken eggs.

Source: USDA Economic Research Service 2002

Top


 

Just the Facts: The Declining Birth Rate
Throughout rural America, there is concern about the outmigration of young people. Yet an equally significant trend affecting rural communities is the declining birth rate. In rural Pennsylvania, the number of births is at a 40-year low.

According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 2002, there were about 33,500 live births to mothers living in rural counties. That’s a 17 percent decline from 1992. As a result of this decline, the rural birth rate in 2002 was 9.8 births for every 1,000 residents, while in 1992, the rate was 12.1 for every 1,000 residents. In the state’s urban areas, the birth rate in 2002 was higher at 11.6 births for every 1,000 residents.

Despite the higher birth rate, Pennsylvania’s urban areas are also seeing a decline in the number of births. Between 1992 and 2002, the number of urban births declined 16 percent. Nationally, the number of births has also slowed.

Using a slightly different time frame of 1990 to 2000, the number of births across the United States declined 2 percent. The New England states of Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine had the largest decline of more than 17 percent, while the western states of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona had the highest increases of over 23 percent. Pennsylvania ranked 44th in the number of births among the 50 states.

One reason for the declining birth rate is the number of women in their prime child-producing years. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of rural women between 15 and 34 years old declined 11 percent.

Another contributing factor for the low birth rate is the low total fertility rate. As an estimate of the average number of children a woman would have during her lifetime, a rate at or above 2.00 would represent replacement levels for each parent. In 2000, the total fertility rate in Pennsylvania’s rural counties was 1.75, which is below the replacement level.

In the coming years, the current low birth rate will be most noticeable in school enrollment. According to enrollment projections by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, rural schools are likely to see a 12 percent enrollment decline between the 2001 and 2012 school years. This decline is on top of the 2 percent drop in enrollment between the 1996 and 2001 school years.

 

Top