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January/February 2013

Inside This Issue:


Center Announces 2013 Research Grant Awards
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors has awarded research grants to faculty at Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities as part of the Center’s 2013 Research Grant Program. The board approved more than $56,000 to support four research projects, which are set to begin in January and February.

“The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s research focuses on the needs of our times,” Senator Gene Yaw, Center board chairman, said. “As the board of directors considers grant proposals for funding, it focuses attention on and chooses the projects that will create a baseline of knowledge or build upon current information that will add to the policy discussions on how best to address rural needs.” The funded projects are listed below.

The Status of Municipal Pension Funds
Dr. Jeffrey A. Weber of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania will use existing data to inventory uniformed and non-uniformed municipal pension plans. The researcher will also determine the financial conditions of the funds, assess trends in funding status, and identify current/short-term pension needs.

Homelessness in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Heather S. Feldhaus of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania will work with other researchers and homelessness practitioners to identify, gather and evaluate existing patterns in rural homelessness and housing insecurity. They will then report on the current situation and collaborate on a long-term plan to better measure and track homelessness in rural Pennsylvania.

Analysis of Hate Crime and Bias Incidents in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Barry Ruback of Pennsylvania State University will create a dataset of hate crime incidents in Pennsylvania, an inventory of police responses, and a list of civil rights and social action organizations.

Assessing Enrollment Trends of Charter Schools and Financial Impacts on Rural and Non-Rural School Districts in Pennsylvania
Dr. Kai A. Schafft of Pennsylvania State University will assess charter school enrollment trends within Pennsylvania over a 5-year period for which the most recent data are available. For that same time frame, the researcher will analyze the likely financial impacts of charters and cyber charters on school districts, with particular attention to how the impacts may be different in urban and rural school districts.

Population projections
At its February meeting, the Center board will review research proposals that aim to develop population projections at 5-year intervals for Pennsylvania’s 67 counties for the next 30 years. The proposal that is selected as part of the Research Grant Program will be announced in the March/April issue of Rural Perspectives

Preparing for the 2014 Research Grant Program
The Center’s board is currently identifying topics for the 2014 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 more information about the Research Grant Program, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.


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Examination of Pennsylvania Rural County Jails
County jails are becoming increasingly important to Pennsylvania’s overall correctional system, in recent years housing inmates from the state prison system. However, data and information about county jails are incomplete and fragmented, and little formal research has been done on services provided by county jails, especially those in rural areas.

To learn more about the operation of Pennsylvania’s 44 rural county jails, Dr. Gary Zajac and Lindsey Kowalski of Pennsylvania State University conducted research to examine rural county jail populations and demographics, jail capacity, capital projects, budgets, and staffing from 2004 through 2011.

The study, which was conducted in 2011, also documented the types of treatment programs and services being offered at the jails and compared them to what is known about effective offender rehabilitation practices.

The research was sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

The researchers used data collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) and conducted a survey of county jail wardens/sheriffs to collect information on planned major capital projects and financial challenges facing the jails.

The research found that the system-wide average annual total rural jail population (2004-2011) was 7,520 inmates per year, which is 22 percent of the total Pennsylvania county jail population in 2009 (that is all 63 county jails combined). The rural county jail population grew by 17 percent from 2004 to 2010. There was significant variation in the size of rural county jail populations, with the smallest rural jail housing 26 inmates per year, on average, and the largest rural jail housing 421 inmates per year, on average. The rural jail population was overwhelmingly young, white, and male.

While some jails had an excess of inmates, the rural county jail system was operating at 84 percent of capacity, on average, during the study period. In comparison, PADOC operated at 113 percent of capacity.

From June 2009 through December 2010, PADOC transferred 1,507 state inmates to nine rural county jails through contractual agreements.

The average cost-per-day, per-inmate in the rural county jail system was $60.41, and ranged from a low of $37.54 to a high of $127.71. By way of comparison, the average cost-per-day, per-inmate in the state system was $88.23.

Forty-three percent of rural county jails reported having undertaken a major capital expansion or restoration project during the study period. However, 92 percent of responding jails reported having no new capital projects planned, in spite of 44 percent of responding jails reporting a major capital project need.

All of the jails reported offering some sort of rehabilitative and related programming during the study period, although two of the most common types of programming were educational/vocational and general psychological counseling, both of which are generally mandated under law or as part of accreditation standards. Drug and alcohol programming was also universally offered, although the most common mode for the service was self-help groups, which are not found to be effective, according to the research literature.

For a copy of the research report, An Examination of Pennsylvania Rural County Jails, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Chairman’s Message
Speaking before a farm interest group in Washington this past December, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented that rural America is becoming “less and less relevant” in the national scene. He said rural America’s biggest assets – the food supply, recreational areas and energy – can easily be overlooked because of the concentration of the population in cities and suburbs. He challenged the audience, and all those who advocate for rural America, to become more united and proactive in their work. 

While it may not have been obvious to some, the bottom line of the Secretary’s statements was that rural does matter and is relevant. Getting that message across in a compelling and substantive way is the challenge for all of us who care about rural issues. Here at the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, we are committed to that challenge through our sponsored research and data analysis work.

In reviewing the history and accomplishments of the Center over its 25 year history, I believe we have brought greater awareness of rural Pennsylvania, with particular focus on those very assets mentioned by the Secretary, namely food supply, recreational areas and energy. From agritourism and farm-to-school initiatives, to food processing and farmers’ markets, our sponsored research speaks to the critical importance of a sustainable agricultural industry for this commonwealth.

The Center took a lead role in developing a statewide heritage tourism plan and continues to support the work of the Pennsylvania Wilds and the Route 6 Tourism Alliance, which showcase rural Pennsylvania’s unique quality of life to residents and visitors alike.

With its tremendous natural gas resources and expanding alternative energy programs, Pennsylvania is a lead state in developing home grown strategies for making this nation more energy independent. The Center’s recent work in identifying options for expanding natural gas distribution systems will take on a greater role in the next legislative session of the General Assembly.

All of the Center’s work is focused on raising awareness and the relevance of the role rural Pennsylvania has played, and continues to play, in the economic success of this state and nation. In a state as diverse as Pennsylvania, it is critical to our collective work to find common ground with our urban and suburban communities so that the resources within our rural lands are recognized as assets for our entire commonwealth.

The Center remains committed and focused on its mission of raising greater awareness, and more importantly the relevance, of rural Pennsylvania and the policies that will benefit all of our state’s residents and communities. 

Senator Gene Yaw

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Rural Snapshot: People with Disabilities
In 2011, there were an estimated 662,700 rural Pennsylvanians with disabilities, or 15 percent of the rural population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS-PUMS). There were an estimated 1.13 million urban Pennsylvanians with disabilities, or 13 percent of the urban population, in 2011.

Nationally, there were 39.4 million people with disabilities, or 13 percent of the U.S. population. West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas had the highest percentage of people with disabilities, each with more than 17 percent of the population. California, Minnesota and Utah had the lowest percentage of people with disabilities, each with less than 11 percent.  Pennsylvania, with 14 percent of its population being comprised of people with disabilities, had the nation’s 14th highest rate.

According to ACS-PUMS, a person was identified as having a disability if he/she or someone else in the household checked off one or more of the following types of disabilities on the ACS survey:

For a closer look at rural residents with disabilities, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania analyzed the 2011 ACS-PUMS data. The Center excluded from its analysis persons living in institutionalized group quarters, such as nursing homes, prisons, and long-term care hospitals. In 2011, approximately 7 percent of rural residents with disabilities lived in institutionalized group quarters. The analysis focused on working age adults (age 18 to 64).  According to the data, 51 percent of rural residents with disabilities were in this age group. Among rural residents with disabilities, 6 percent were younger than 18 and 43 percent were 65 years old or older. 

Type of Disability
The majority of rural adults with disabilities had physical difficulties (51 percent), followed by cognitive difficulties (43 percent), and independent living difficulties (34 percent). The percentages were similar for adults in urban Pennsylvania.

According to the data, 55 percent of rural adults with disabilities had only one disability; 23 percent had two disabilities; and 22 percent had three or more disabilities. Again, there was a similar pattern among urban adults with disabilities.

Gender, Age, Marital Status
In rural Pennsylvania, males were more likely to have a disability than females (52 percent and 48 percent, respectively). In urban Pennsylvania, the pattern was reversed, as females were more likely to have a disability (52 percent) than males (48 percent).

Ninety-three percent of rural adults with disabilities were white/non-Hispanic and 7 percent were minorities.

Among urban adults with disabilities, 65 percent were white/non-Hispanic and 35 percent were minorities.

Rural adults with disabilities were slightly older than urban adults with disabilities, as the average age of rural residents was 47.1 and the average age of urban residents was 46.5.

The data also indicated that 21 percent of rural adults with disabilities and 25 percent of urban adults with disabilities lived alone. 

Rural adults with disabilities were more likely to be married (42 percent) than urban adults with disabilities (33 percent). Among those who were not married, 27 percent in rural areas were widowed, divorced or separated, and 30 percent had never been married. In urban areas, 26 percent were widowed, divorced, or separated and 41 percent had never been married.

Education
Fifteen percent of rural adults with disabilities had an associate’s degree or higher compared to 19 percent of urban adults with disabilities. 

Employment
In 2011, 40 percent of rural adults with disabilities were in the labor force and 60 percent were not. Among those in the labor force, 86 percent were employed and 14 percent were unemployed.

Forty-one percent of urban adults with disabilities were in the labor force and 59 percent were not. Of those in the labor force, 79 percent were employed and 21 percent were unemployed.

Of those who were employed, 66 percent in rural areas and 65 percent in urban areas worked full-time (35 or more hours a week). In rural areas, the median earnings for a full-time worker was $29,529; in urban areas the median was $34,620.

Health Insurance
The majority of rural and urban adults with disabilities had health care insurance (87 percent and 89 percent, respectively). Thirteen percent of rural adults with disabilities and 11 percent of urban adults with disabilities did not have health care insurance. 

Forty-six percent of rural adults with disabilities received health care insurance through public programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, 37 percent were insured through private insurance, and 17 percent had a combination of public and private insurance. Among urban adults with disabilities, 49 percent were insured through public programs, 36 percent through private insurance, and 15 percent through a combination of public and private insurance.

Income and Poverty
Rural households with one or more adults with disabilities had median incomes of $36,657. This income was lower than the median income for all rural households ($46,635). Urban households with one or more adults with disabilities had median incomes of $37,878. This income was also lower than the median income for all urban households ($52,236).

Twenty-seven percent of rural adults with disabilities and 31 percent of urban adults with disabilities lived in poverty. 

Twenty-one percent of rural adults with disabilities received Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration, this assistance program guarantees a minimum level of income for individuals with a disability. Twenty-three percent of urban adults with disabilities received SSI payments. In 2011, the median SSI income for rural and urban adults with disabilities was $8,248.

Thirty percent of rural households with one or more adults with disabilities received SNAP (formerly food stamps) payments. Among similar urban households, 35 percent received SNAP payments.

Housing
Seventy percent of rural adults with disabilities lived in their own home and 30 percent rented their home. Fifty-one percent of rural adults with disabilities lived in the same home for 10 or more years and 49 percent lived in the same home for less than 10 years. For homeowners, the median value of their home was $100,000 and their monthly housing cost was $765, or 21 percent of their income. For renters, the median gross rent was $610 per month, or 33 percent of their income. 

Among the urban adults with disabilities, 57 percent were homeowners and 43 percent were renters. Forty-six percent lived in the same home for 10 or more years and 54 percent lived in the same home for less than 10 years. For urban homeowners, the median value of their home was $140,000 and their monthly housing cost was $1,058, or 24 percent of their income. For renters, the median gross rent was $760, or 43 percent of their income.

Rural and Urban Adults (18 to 64 Years Old) by Type of Disability, 2011

Note: Totals do not add up to 100 percent as persons may have noted having multiple disabilities. Data source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.

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Food Assistance Outreach During the Recession
During declines in economic conditions, such as the most recent recession, social welfare programs like unemployment benefits and various food assistance programs become the “safety net” that supports the standard of living for those affected by unemployment and related economic conditions.

To understand how some safety net programs responded during the recession of December 2007 to June 2009, Dr. Suzanne McDevitt of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania assessed four major food assistance programs. The programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).

The research, conducted in 2011 and 2012, was sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. It analyzed data from the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare, Health, Labor and Industry, and Agriculture, and the U.S. Census Bureau, and administered a survey of food banks and lead agency directors to gather information on the impact of the recession on clients.

Overall, the research results indicated that SNAP responded quickly, within the framework of its eligibility structure. TEFAP delivered extra food during the 18 months of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. WIC, which is influenced by the birth rate, had a very small increase in fiscal year 2010 and a decrease in fiscal year 2011, which may have been the result of those declining birth rates. SFPP continued to provide a baseline for the state’s food pantry system.

For a copy of the research results, Food Assistance Program Outreach During the Recession, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Fire Company Capacity to Respond to Emergency Calls
It takes time, money and talent to operate a fire station. According to the results of a recent survey of Pennsylvania fire chiefs conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute (PFESI), Pennsylvania fire companies continue to devote all those things and more to meet the needs of their communities.

The Center and PFESI conducted the statewide survey of fire chiefs in 2012 to learn more about fire company capacity. These results were compared to the results of a similar survey in 2001 to determine what, if any, changes have occurred over the past 11 years.

According to the 2012 survey results, 43 percent of fire chiefs said their companies were unable to respond to some calls during the past 2 years. However, 79 percent of these chiefs said their companies were unable to respond to less than 10 calls and 21 percent said their companies were unable to respond to 11 or more calls. The main reason for not responding was insufficient crew. In 2001, 38 percent of chiefs said their companies were unable to respond to some calls. 
The results of both surveys indicated the most difficult time for a fire company to respond to calls was weekday mornings and afternoons.

From 2001 to 2012 there was an increase in the percentage of companies discussing or considering consolidation (22 percent to 33 percent). This increase could suggest that more companies are facing financial or staffing difficulties. However, from the data collected, there were no indicators pointing to the reason(s) why these companies were thinking about consolidation. 

The percent of companies requiring monthly training of firefighters increased from 60 percent in 2001 to 67 percent in 2012. Training, however, takes time and money, and in the written comments section of the survey, many chiefs talked about the difficulty firefighters have in balancing training along with family and work commitments. 

To raise money, 92 percent of fire companies had one or more fundraising events a year. The average number of events was 17, or approximately one event every three weeks. The number of events varied little among companies based on size of the company, their budgets, the population served and a host of other factors. There were, however, two exceptions to this pattern. The first was the location of the companies, with rural companies having more fundraisers than urban companies. The second was with retention, with more fundraisers equaling more firefighters leaving the company or becoming inactive. 

For a copy of the results, Pennsylvania Firefighters: Fire Company Capacity, 2001 and 2012, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Just the Facts: Places of Worship
There are more religious congregations but fewer congregation members in rural Pennsylvania in 2010 than in 2000, according to data from the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA).

In 2010, there were 6,372 congregations, or places of worship, in rural Pennsylvania, a 10 percent increase from 2000. During the same period, there were 1.68 million congregation members in rural Pennsylvania, a 6 percent decline from 2000.

In 2000, 7.12 million Pennsylvanians, or 58 percent of the population, belonged to a religious congregation, and there were 13,105 congregations located throughout the state.

Over the decade, however, rural and urban counties had different rates of change in congregation numbers and members.

From 2000 to 2010, 23 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties had an increase in congregation members. Of those 23 counties, 17 were rural and six were urban. The rural county with the largest increase in members was Forest, with 53 percent.

From 2000 to 2010, 44 counties saw a decline in congregation members. Of these counties, 31 were rural and 13 were urban. The rural county with the largest decline in members was Sullivan, with 35 percent.

While congregation membership declined, the overall number of congregations increased from 2000 to 2010. In total, 60 counties – 42 rural and 18 urban – saw an increase in the number of congregations. Monroe County had a 37 percent increase while Sullivan County experienced a 37 percent decrease.

In 2010, the rural counties with the highest percentages of congregation members were Elk (89 percent), Cambria (72 percent) and Cameron (69 percent). The rural counties with the lowest percentages of congregation members were Sullivan (29 percent), Fulton (30 percent), and Pike (30 percent).

The data show a 7 percent increase nationally from 2000 to 2010 in religious denomination membership. Nevada, Georgia, and Utah each had an increase of more than 30 percent. In 2010, 49 percent of the U.S. population were members of a congregation. Pennsylvania ranked 19th among states according to the percentage of its population that belonged to a religious congregation.

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