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January/February 2012

Inside This Issue:


Center Board Announces 2012 Research Grant Projects
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors has awarded research grants to faculty at Pennsylvania State University and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities as part of the Center’s 2012 Research Grant Program.

Most research projects are set to begin mid-January and will focus on a wide range of issues to provide data and policy information to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The 2012 research projects will examine telehealth services and practices, rural prisoner reentry challenges, characteristics of students pursuing postsecondary education, home- and community-based alternatives to nursing home care, and municipal financial condition data.

This year, researchers from Penn State University also will begin a longitudinal study of the impact of Marcellus gas drilling on four Pennsylvania counties.

“The Center’s Board of Directors knows that these research projects will provide beneficial and decisive information on which sound policy and practices are based,” said Senator Gene Yaw, Center board chairman. “The board looks forward to sharing the results of the research with policy makers and our rural residents and communities.”

The Center’s traditional Research Grant Program offers a maximum funding level of $50,000 per project per year. Its Mini Grant Program offers a maximum funding level of $10,000 per project for a nine-month period.The grant awards under the traditional and mini grant programs are summarized below.

Telehealth in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Christine J. Rhoads of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania will examine telehealth services and practices in rural Pennsylvania, and provide policy considerations based on the findings. Dr. Rhoads will document both the type and the technology, as well as impacts, costs, reimbursement practices, outcomes, benefits and barriers related to telehealth practices in rural counties.

Rural Prisoner Reentry Challenges
Dr. Gary Zajac of Pennsylvania State University will examine issues related to the reentry of prisoners to rural areas. The research will explore prison growth and release trends, reentry needs, reentry services provided and service gaps impacting successful reentry efforts, and provide policy implications.

Characteristics of Pennsylvania Students Pursuing Postsecondary Education
Dr. Esther Prins of Pennsylvania State University will analyze recent data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to better understand socio-demographic, educational status, family, and financial characteristics of rural and urban Pennsylvania students beginning and continuing their postsecondary education. Dr. Prins also will examine differences in financial need for beginning and continuing postsecondary students, and factors related to the financial needs of rural and urban students.

Home- and Community-Based Care Alternatives to Nursing Homes in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Janet Ann Melnick of Pennsylvania State University Worthington-Scranton will document and analyze home- and community-based services in rural Pennsylvania. The analysis will provide an inventory of current services, estimate the future demand for long-term care services, identify the service gaps between current and long-term care needs, and provide public policy considerations.

Analysis of Survey of Financial Condition Data
Dr. Patricia A. Patrick of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania will use Survey of Financial Condition data to identify the number, type and characteristics of rural and urban municipalities experiencing financial distress. For this mini-grant, Dr. Patrick will analyze the socio-demographic, financial and economic characteristics associated with financial distress in rural and urban municipalities.

Study of Marcellus Shale Development Impacts
Dr. Kathryn Brasier of Pennsylvania State University will lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers to chronicle community change occurring in two southwestern and two north central Pennsylvania counties experiencing rapid unconventional gas development. Additionally, the project will document strategies used by institutions, organizations, and communities to manage economic and social impacts of gas development.

Preparing for the 2013 Research Grant Program
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s board is currently identifying topics for the 2013 Research Grant Program. After the topics have been identified, the Center will issue its Request for Proposals (RFP).

While the Center’s grant program is only available to faculty at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities, Pennsylvania State University, and the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh, the Center encourages cooperation and collaboration between these faculty and other public or private organizations.

For a copy of the 2013 RFP or more information about the grant program, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Chairman's Message
As a U.S. Army veteran with overseas service, I took personal interest in the news that our last 4,000 U.S. military troops were leaving Iraq this past December. For the families and communities they returned to, it certainly had to make the holiday season one that was particularly joyous and thankful. As we welcome the troops back to their homes, we also remember those men and women who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan or came home with debilitating physical and emotional injuries.

Many of the troops that served in the Iraq war and have served or are serving in Afghanistan are Pennsylvanians. Combined with those who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts throughout the decades, Pennsylvania has the fourth highest number of military veterans in the nation at about 1.03 million. About 32 percent live in rural Pennsylvania. 

Many veterans, regardless of age, need extensive healthcare services as well as transportation to access healthcare facilities. According to 2008 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data, Pennsylvania’s military veterans experienced more than 21,000 hospitalizations and made more than 2.4 million visits for outpatient medical services.

Recent research sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania examined the need for medically-related transportation services among rural Pennsylvania veterans and identified the transportation services currently available to them. The results of the research, featured on Page 4, indicate that rural veterans have significant and ongoing needs for quality healthcare, and often for specialized care. The results also show that these veterans face significant challenges in accessing that care. Lack of public transportation, handicapped-accessible vans, timely travel routes, and trained drivers are just several factors that they must deal with regularly. The research offers several considerations that may help with the challenges they face.

As we welcome in the New Year, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania embarks on its 25th annual cycle of research projects. Since its first round in 1988, the Center’s research work has mirrored the diversity and complexity of rural Pennsylvania – a state with the nation’s third largest rural population and a rural landscape that encompasses about 75 percent of our state’s land mass. It has educated policy makers in state government, provided practical tools and information leading to better decision-making at the local level, and raised awareness about rural Pennsylvania at the national level. The focus of the Center’s research work in 2012 is highlighted on Pages 1 and 3. 

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which symbolizes success and good luck. May that ring true for all of us this New Year.

Senator Gene Yaw

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Center Issues Error Notice on Marcellus Gas Drilling, Rural Drinking Water Report
In November 2011, Penn State University researchers advised the Center for Rural Pennsylvania of an error in their research findings in the report, The Impact of Marcellus Gas Drilling on Rural Drinking Water Supplies. The report was released by the Center in October 2011.

The report included data showing bromide increases in seven water wells after drilling and/or fracking of nearby Marcellus gas wells. The researchers advised that the bromide concentration data were incorrect due to a lab error from the subcontracted, state-accredited, water testing laboratory. The laboratory has since provided a data update.

According to the researchers, the updated results showed that the occurrence of bromide in water wells after gas drilling or drilling and fracking was not as prevalent as first reported (in 7 wells), but did occur in a single case (1 well). In this case, the increase in bromide was accompanied by increases in chloride, hardness, and other indicators after drilling and fracking had occurred, as documented in the report.

At this time, all research findings are being reviewed. After the review and confirmation of all results and analyses, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will issue a revised report.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania apologizes for any inconvenience resulting from this error.

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Transportation Issues for Military Veterans
For rural Pennsylvania military veterans, there is a persistent gap between their needs for medically-related transportation services and the availability of accessible and affordable transportation services, according to recent research conducted by Pennsylvania State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers.

The research, sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, found that rural veterans face, and often endure, comparatively longer travel times to reach healthcare facilities. And for some types of specialty care, these veterans must travel very long distances.

These circumstances are also compounded by formidable barriers to the provision of transportation services in rural areas, including limited availability of public transportation systems and handicapped-accessible vehicles, funding for vans, and a lack of trained drivers.

Research background
More than 1 million military veterans live in Pennsylvania. In federal fiscal year 2008, this population experienced more than 21,000 hospitalizations and made more than 2.4 million visits for outpatient medical services.

To measure the need for medically-related transportation services among rural Pennsylvania veterans and identify the transportation services currently available to them, Dr. Marianne M. Hillemeier, Lisa Davis, Dr. Christopher Calkins, Barbara Kinne and Ann Myatt James of Penn State University and Dr. Amy Glasmeier and Nancy Chen of MIT conducted research in 2010 and 2011 on the availability and accessibility of healthcare services.

The researchers used newly acquired and geocoded data on wounded active-duty returning service personnel and veterans, specifically those in rural areas. They used the data to map the geographic locations of these individuals and the geographic locations of available healthcare services.

Using U.S. Census and Veteran’s Administration data, the researchers identified the average distances to healthcare services for wounded rural military personnel and veterans in the state.

These data enabled the researchers to identify service-efficient and service-shortage areas.

Research results
The research found that rural veterans have significant and ongoing needs for quality healthcare, and often for specialized care, and face sometimes significant challenges in accessing that care.

While state, county, and local agencies and organizations make valiant efforts to provide some level of transportation services, the research found there is a long way to go to meet current local needs and overcome barriers, such as financial challenges, the limited availability of trained volunteer drivers and transportation itself, and a lack of necessary services in local healthcare facilities, which often necessitate long-distance travel to access services.

Results from this research suggest that local and state level measures would be beneficial. For example, community leaders could increase public awareness about the need for medical transportation among veterans in their communities, and of the vital transportation services that local organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans, currently provide.

Counties could emphasize transportation system planning that takes into account locations of medical facilities used by veterans and develop efficient routes and reciprocal agreements that allow for cross-county transportation routes and services.

The state could increase support for county-based veteran services through the county Veteran Services/Veterans Affairs Offices. It could also further support accessible transportation systems, as well as local organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans, in purchasing handicapped-accessible vans.

Report available
For a copy of the report, An Examination of Transportation Services Available to Rural Military Veterans for Medical Services, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Rural Snapshot: Youth Unemployment
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the nation’s unemployment rate for youth (age 16 to 24) was 18 percent in July 2011.

To better understand Pennsylvania rural youth unemployment, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania took a look at the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The analysis used 2006 and 2010 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS-PUMS) data from the U. S. Census Bureau. In the analysis, youth in institutionalized group quarters, such as prisons and hospitals, were excluded along with active duty military personnel.

According to the analysis, in 2010, the rural youth unemployment rate was 19 percent, 11 percentage points higher than that of the adult working age population (age 25+). These youth made up 30 percent of all unemployed people in 2010.

In 2006, the youth unemployment rate was 14 percent while the adult unemployment rate was 5 percent.

In urban counties the youth unemployment rate was also 19 percent in 2010; in 2006, the rate was 15 percent.

Among all states in 2010, Pennsylvania had the 29th highest youth unemployment rate. Georgia, Michigan and Mississippi had the nation’s highest rates, each with a youth unemployment rate above 25 percent. Kansas and North Dakota had the nation’s lowest rates, each with a rate below 14 percent.

In rural Pennsylvania, 61 percent of unemployed youth were male and 39 percent were female in 2010.

Four percent of unemployed youth were married.

In 2010, unemployed rural youth were evenly divided between those who were enrolled in school (50 percent) and those who were not (50 percent). Among those enrolled in school, 50 percent had not yet graduated from high school and 50 percent were in college as an undergraduate or graduate student. 

Of the rural youth who were not enrolled in school, 17 percent did not have a high school diploma, 61 percent had a high school diploma, 14 percent had some college but no degree, and 8 percent had an associate’s degree or higher.

Approximately 27 percent of unemployed rural youth lived in households with income below the poverty level. In addition, 34 percent did not have health insurance coverage.

Among unemployed rural youth in 2010, 54 percent were employed within the past 12 months, with 53 percent working full-time and 47 percent working part-time.

Rural Unemployment by Age, 2006 and 2010

Data source: ACS-PUMS 2006, 2010

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Ground Down: Pennsylvania Loses Some Square Land Miles
Pennsylvania has lost some ground. Literally. Data from the 2010 Census show that Pennsylvania’s total land area is 44,743 square miles, which is 74 fewer square miles than what was reported in the 2000 Census.

According to the 2010 Census data, rural Pennsylvania counties lost a total of 45 square miles, and the state's urban counties lost a total of 29 square miles from 2000.

One explanation for the change in land area is the loss of land area to lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and streams. From 2000 to 2010, the number of square miles of water area in rural Pennsylvania increased from 301 square miles to 347 square miles.

Another explanation for the change in land area is better mapping technology. Improvements in computer cartography and data collection have enabled the Census Bureau and other federal agencies to more accurately account for each county’s land and water areas.

 Compared to some other states, Pennsylvania’s 74 square mile ground loss is relatively small. For example, Texas and Alaska each had a loss of more than 500 square land miles from 2000 to 2010.

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Not a Good Year for Rural Tourism
By all accounts, 2009 was not a good year for rural Pennsylvania tourism. According to the most recent data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, visitor spending in rural counties went from $12.3 billion in 2008 to $10.6 billion in 2009, which is a 14 percent decline. Employment in rural tourism-related businesses, such as accommodation and food service, also declined from 89,542 in 2008 to 85,432 in 2009, a decrease of 4,110 jobs or 5 percent.

Pennsylvania’s urban counties also had declines in visitor spending. In 2009, visitor spending in urban counties was about $21 billion, a 13 percent decline from 2008 when visitor spending was about $24 billion. Employment in tourism-related businesses went from 202,119 in 2008 to 192,684 in 2009, a 5 percent decrease.

Despite these gloomy numbers, there are some indicators showing that rural tourism is improving.

Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry show that rural employment in two tourism-related industries increased from 2009 to 2010. Employment increased 1 percent in the accommodation and food service industry and 2 percent in the art, entertainment and recreation industry.

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Fast Fact: In- and Out-Migration

Out-of-State Migration Into and Out-Migration from Rural Pennsylvania, 1999-2000 to 2009-2010

Data source: Internal Revenue Service

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Just the Facts: Rural Veterans
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006-10 American Community Survey, there are 330,414 military veterans, or 12 percent of the adult population, in rural Pennsylvania. In the state’s urban counties, there are 704,562 veterans, or 10 percent of the adult population.

Nationwide, there are more than 22.65 million military veterans. Among the 50 states, Pennsylvania has the fourth highest number of veterans, with 1.03 million. However, Pennsylvania ranks 32nd among all states in the percentage of the population that is veterans (11 percent). The states with the highest percentages of veterans are Alaska and Montana, each with more than 14 percent. New York and New Jersey have the lowest, each with 7 percent.   

In Pennsylvania, at the county level, Allegheny and Philadelphia have the highest number of veterans, while Sullivan and Cameron have the lowest. However, as a percentage of the total adult population (18 years old and older), Forest and Potter counties have the highest percentages of veterans, each with 15 percent, while Philadelphia and Centre have the lowest percentages, each with less than 8 percent.

For a closer look at Pennsylvania’s rural veterans, the Center examined data from the 2010 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS-PUMS), and only included adults (18 years old and older) in the analysis.

The analysis shows that:

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