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July/August 2000

Inside This Issue:

 

Center Releases Reports on Cost of Living and Homebound Seniors
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors has approved and released two reports on the cost of living and homebound rural seniors, conducted by researchers at Penn State University’s Erie and Fayette campuses, respectively.

Cost of living

The cost of living continues to be lower for most Pennsylvania rural residents than urban residents, according to a one-year study conducted by Dr. James A. Kurre of Penn State Erie. The report is a follow-up based on a cost-of-living study conducted by Kurre on behalf of the Center in 1992.

In his study, Differences in the Cost of Living Across Pennsylvania’s 67 Counties, Kurre developed spatial cost of living estimates for every Pennsylvania county for 1997. In addition to overall cost of living, the study looked at six subindexes including groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. (See the table below) The indexes were helpful in identifying high- and low-cost locations in the state.

The study basically addressed four issues:

- Are rural counties less expensive places to live than urban counties?

- Do the same patterns exist for each of the six subindexes as for the overall cost of living?

- Are the spatial patterns found in the 1992 study still applicable today?

- Are the factors that determine cost of living differences across the state stable over time?

The key finding was that rural counties in Pennsylvania tend to have lower costs of living overall and for each of the six subindexes than urban counties. However, not all rural places are less expensive than all urban places. For example, Kurre notes that urban Lycoming, Cambria and Luzerne counties tended to have lower costs than many rural counties, and Pike and Monroe counties tended to have higher costs despite their rural classifications.

The study also found that the same patterns exist for the subindexes, which means that urban areas tend to be more expensive for all of the subindexes and for overall cost of living. Geographical patterns were also found to be similar in both this and the earlier study, which indicated that eastern and urban counties were more expensive then, and still are today. The determinants of cost of living also have not changed dramatically since the 1992 study, which was based on 1989 data.

Homebound seniors

In a separate report released by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, researchers suggest that homebound rural seniors should not be treated as a homogenous group, noting that the differences in socio-economic factors and individual abilities impacted seniors’ use of services.

The report, An Examination of Homebound Rural Seniors, is based on a one-year study conducted by Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar and John Rapano of Penn State Fayette.

To learn more about the service needs and uses of homebound rural elderly, Kalavar and Rapano interviewed 196 homebound seniors from Fayette, Green and Schuylkill counties.

According to the researchers, homebound rural seniors represent a small but significant subgroup of rural older adults. Typically, homebound seniors are difficult to identify, live in geographically dispersed communities and face formidable challenges with service delivery, service access, and service use. Most often, they rely on family and nonfamily networks for informal support and on formal support systems, which have diverse funding sources, different levels of coordination, and even different definitions of who is homebound. These seniors endure frequent disparities in the quality of these support systems when compared to their urban counterparts.

The study set out to better understand the "culture of homebound rural elderly"; explore similarities or differences in the experience of being a rural homebound senior citizen; and provide information on the needs of homebound seniors to policymakers.

The findings, which where impacted by inherent difficulties in reaching the target population, are meaningful and may be applied to other rural counties in the state.

According to the study, homebound rural seniors are likely to be female, between the ages of 75 and 84, widowed, high-school educated, to have one or more health limitations, and to have an income of less than $10,000 a year.

The findings indicate there were significant differences within the three counties in service provision; that problems with housekeeping and home maintenance were major challenges for many of the respondents; and that many of the needs of homebound seniors were being met.

Want more info?

Call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org for a copy of Differences in the Cost of Living Across Pennsylvania’s 67 Counties, or An Examination of Homebound Rural Seniors.

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Cost of Living Estimates, Total and Four Subindexes, for PA Counties, 1997 (rural counties are in bold type.)

County
Total
Housing
Utilities
Transporation
HealthCare
Adams
101.9
101.4
120.9
100.0
95.8
Allegheny
104.6
109.5
123.9
105.2
108.2
Armstrong
100.2
98.3
120.9
98.6
94.5
Beaver
101.0
102.3
121.1
100.7
96.4
Bedford
100.4
98.2
120.8
96.8
92.2
Berks
102.0
103.1
121.5
101.3
101.3
Blair
100.6
100.9
121.0
98.0
95.1
Bradford
100.5
100.0
120.8
99.0
93.3
Bucks
103.5
105.9
122.2
105.0
107.6
Butler
101.7
101.5
121.1
100.2
96.6
Cambria
100.2
98.5
121.0
98.1
94.6
Cameron
99.7
98.7
120.8
97.9
96.1
Carbon
101.0
98.8
120.8
98.6
94.9
Centre
101.1
102.9
121.0
100.4
95.5
Chester
103.1
104.9
122.1
104.4
118.2
Clarion
99.7
99.1
120.8
96.8
93.8
Clearfield
100.4
97.5
120.9
96.9
93.7
Clinton
100.1
98.0
120.8
101.7
93.0
Columbia
100.3
98.7
120.9
98.0
94.1
Crawford
100.6
100.1
120.9
99.3
93.9
Cumberland
101.7
104.3
121.2
101.2
102.0
Dauphin
101.5
104.0
121.3
101.9
102.1
Delaware
108.4
115.3
122.1
108.5
107.1
Elk
99.7
99.5
120.8
99.1
97.2
Erie
101.0
101.2
121.3
100.2
97.1
Fayette
100.5
97.8
121.0
96.8
93.7
Forest
101.0
95.3
120.8
97.8
91.3
Franklin
101.2
101.3
121.0
98.4
96.6
Fulton
101.2
97.7
120.8
96.4
92.7
Greene
100.1
96.8
120.8
98.1
92.0
Huntingdon
100.2
95.2
120.8
97.3
91.5
Indiana
100.0
97.8
120.9
97.4
93.8
Jefferson
100.2
98.6
120.8
98.3
94.2
Juniata
100.9
97.6
120.8
96.6
92.7
Lackawanna
100.7
100.6
121.1
101.6
97.4
Lancaster
102.3
104.6
121.7
102.3
100.3
Lawrence
100.6
100.3
120.9
98.6
94.6
Lebanon
101.4
103.5
121.0
99.1
97.3
Lehigh
103.1
105.0
121.4
103.9
102.8
Luzerne
100.4
99.9
121.3
99.5
97.7
Lycoming
100.1
99.3
120.9
99.4
94.7
McKean
99.7
98.9
120.8
97.4
94.8
Mercer
100.6
100.9
120.9
98.3
94.6
Mifflin
100.7
98.8
120.8
99.7
92.4
Monroe
103.2
98.5
121.0
101.5
95.5
Montgomery
105.0
109.0
123.1
107.0
121.8
Montour
100.6
102.1
120.8
111.8
101.8
Northampton
102.5
103.7
121.3
101.9
99.5
Northumberland
100.0
99.3
120.9
97.7
94.4
Perry
101.3
101.8
120.8
98.0
94.0
Philadelphia
127.6
148.6
123.5
119.2
101.7
Pike
103.2
100.4
120.8
101.0
94.2
Potter
100.2
98.0
120.8
97.5
94.0
Schuylkill
100.0
98.7
121.0
98.4
95.3
Snyder
100.6
101.0
120.8
98.5
97.4
Somerset
100.5
98.3
120.9
97.1
93.6
Sullivan
100.1
98.4
120.8
97.1
92.4
Susquehanna
100.5
98.5
120.8
96.8
93.2
Tioga
100.4
98.8
120.8
96.7
93.2
Union
100.5
101.5
120.8
99.3
94.1
Venango
99.9
99.0
120.9
98.1
97.8
Warren
99.7
100.2
120.8
98.5
96.1
Washington
100.7
101.1
121.2
99.4
99.3
Wayne
101.2
97.4
120.8
100.1
93.5
Westmoreland
100.9
101.5
121.5
101.2
98.8
Wyoming
99.8
97.4
120.8
99.0
93.9
York
102.1
103.3
121.5
101.6
99.4

 

The cost of living estimates in the table above are based on a national average of 100. Counties with cost estimates above 100 are more expensive than the national average and those with estimates below 100 are less expensive than the national average.

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Chairman’s Message
Many of us look forward to summer because its longer days give us more hours to get more things accomplished. If you’re like me, you always have far more planned for this busy season than time permits. For me, summer means long hours on the farm doing field work, heaving hay bales into a barn, and taking care of all the chores left over from winter and spring! For the legislature, it’s a time to catch up with work in the district offices and prepare for the fall voting session. And for some, it’s a time to get away from work and escape for a brief vacation from phones, fax machines, and other demands of the job.

Sometimes, during summer’s activities, we can combine business with pleasure. I always look forward to spending time at the annual Ag Progress Days in August at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Rock Springs, Pa. It’s a time to see old friends and meet new people, and learn about the latest technology and research in agriculture. All of the exhibits, demonstrations and activities help farmers and non-farmers, youth and seniors, to gather valuable information while they enjoy some time away from home. For more information about Ag Progress Days, turn to the Conferences section on page 7. You will also find information on a variety of conference opportunities that are guaranteed to stimulate your summer and cure any case of the doldrums.

If you prefer to spend your free time this summer relaxing under a shade tree with a refreshing glass of cold milk and farm-fresh fruit and ice cream, indulge yourself with one more treat. Explore the pages of a book written by a rural Pennsylvanian. A list of possibilities is on page 5, where we highlight some rural authors whose talents are sure to please a variety of literary tastes. You may find yourself recognizing some of the places and people that come to life in these books.

Two recently released reports from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will provide some additional reading opportunities for those who are interested in two important topics: homebound rural seniors and the cost of living. These reports, which are featured on page 1 of this edition of Rural Perspectives, are based on one-year research projects by faculty at Penn State University’s Fayette and Erie campuses. Other informative articles in this issue provide data on rural dentists and dental practices, the number of AIDS cases in both rural and urban areas, the Community Revitalization Grants Program, and rural liquor sales.

If hiking is part of your summer plans, you don’t want to miss our Resources section on page 8, which features an announcement about the release of the Pennsylvania Rail-Trails guidebook, fifth edition. The guidebook offers information on the 100 statewide trails that may be enjoyed this summer and throughout the year.

Events, exhibits, attractions and vacation sites. Rural Pennsylvania has it all. So try to get out and enjoy them if you can. Have a wonderful summer.

Representative Sheila Miller

Chairman

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Checkup on Rural Dentists
Some people may not fully appreciate their regular visit to the dentist, but that visit is just as important as a regular visit to the family doctor. Scheduling a regular dental checkup may be more difficult, since over the last several years, Pennsylvania has experienced a slight decline in the number of licensed dentists practicing in the state, and only a minor increase in the number of dental practices.

Number of dentists

According to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, from 1992 to 1999, the number of licensed dentists in the state declined 2 percent, from 8,497 dentists to 8,317. In 1999, 83 percent of the dentists in Pennsylvania were located in urban counties. More than 17 percent of dentists were located in rural areas.

More specifically, in 1999 there were 1,146 dentists in rural areas or one dentist for every 2,224 residents and 7,171 dentists located in urban areas or one dentist for every 1,318 residents. Regionally, counties in western Pennsylvania saw the largest decline in dentists at 4 percent while eastern counties saw a modest decline of 1 percent. At the county level, four counties had less than five dentists each including Cameron, Forest, Fulton, and Sullivan. The counties with the highest number of dentists were Allegheny, Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia.

Dental offices

While the number of dentists has declined, the number of dental offices and receipts has increased. Based on reports from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Economic Census, from 1992 to 1997, total receipts per dental office increased by almost 14 percent in rural counties. In urban counties, receipts increased by nearly 11 percent. In 1997, there were 5,433 dental offices in the state; 829 offices were in rural counties and 4,604 offices were in urban counties. From 1992 to 1997, there was a gain of 117 offices statewide. During that same period, for every one office gained in rural counties, there were 28 gained in urban counties.

While there have been increases in both revenue and the number of dental offices in both rural and urban areas, there are still medically under-served locations in Pennsylvania. Slightly more than 16 percent of dental offices in the state were located in rural counties in 1997. During that time, there was roughly one office for every 3,000 residents, compared to one office for every 2,000 residents in urban areas.

To alleviate medical shortages and under-service throughout the state, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 113, the Children’s Health Care Act of 1992. This act allowed the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Health Professions Development to declare Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) to help recruit dentists and open new practices. In 1996, Pennsylvania had 18 dental HPSAs. Thirty-three percent of HPSAs were located in low-income rural areas.

Correction: The number of HPSAs listed above actually represents primary care HPSAs. There were 33 dental HPSAs as of July 2000 and of these, 23 were identified as low-income population HPSAs.

Want more info?

For a more detailed factsheet called A Rural Dental Checkup, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Reported Cases of AIDS Declines in PA
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS, a deadly condition in which the body’s defenses against illnesses are broken down, continues to ravage the health of individuals worldwide.

In Pennsylvania, since 1980, over 22,800 cases of AIDS have been reported and about 7 percent of the reported cases are from rural areas, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of Epidemiology.

Between 1980 and 1999, the total number of reported AIDS cases in rural areas was 1,400, or 57 cases for every 100,000 residents. In urban areas, there were more than 21,460 reported cases, or 227 cases for every 100,000 residents. During that 20-year period, over 55 percent of those with AIDS have died. People with AIDS who live in rural areas have had a slightly higher mortality rate than those in urban areas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pennsylvania ranks number seven in the nation in the cumulative number of reported AIDS cases between 1981 and 1997. New York, California, and Florida have the highest cumulative number of reported cases. On a per capita basis, Pennsylvania is ranked 21.

Within Pennsylvania, the highest number of reported AIDS cases were from southeastern Pennsylvania. The five predominantly urban counties in this region had 409 reported cases for every 100,000 residents, which was more than twice the state average. Northwestern Pennsylvania had the lowest number of reported cases, or less than 50 for every 100,000 residents. That number was nearly four times below the state average.

Between 1994 and 1997, the number of newly reported AIDS cases in rural areas dropped nearly 46 percent. In urban areas, there was a 27 percent decline. Nationally, there was a 24 percent decline.

Factors that are often cited as the reasons for the decline in AIDS rates include increased education and awareness, improved drug treatment and medical care, and increased testing. In rural Pennsylvania, testing does not appear to play a major role in the declining rates of the disease. Between 1995 and 1998, fewer rural residents were tested for AIDS or Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that leads to AIDS, than urban residents. In rural areas, only 15 people were tested for every 1,000 residents, while in urban areas, over 32 people were tested for every 1,000 residents.

Due to new treatments, which delay the onset of AIDS after infection with HIV, many states now track the epidemic by tracking HIV infection data. The CDC studied HIV infection rates in 25 states and found that while AIDS rates have dropped, HIV infection has remained relatively steady. The CDC has also noted that women, and especially those of color, are the fastest growing population segment becoming infected with the virus in recent years.

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Summer Reading List of Rural Authors
Eager to get your hands on a good book this summer? Why not check out some prose by famous authors who were born, raised or living in rural Pennsylvania. The works of these authors are sure to suit a variety of literary tastes. Good reading!

David Bradley - The author and scholar was born in Chaneysville, Bedford County, and currently lives in California. In 1981, Bradley released his book, The Chaneysville Incident, which addresses the real mystery of runaway slaves whose graves are located near that southern Bedford County town. In 1982, the book received a Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, an award founded by writers to honor their peers.

Dean Koontz - The noted horror/psychological fiction writer was born in Everett, Bedford County. Koontz graduated from Shippensburg University, located in Franklin County. After a few years of both teaching and counseling, Koontz became a full-time writer in 1969. A short list of his books include, Warlock, A Werewolf Among Us, Whispers, Watchers, Winter Moon, and Intensity.

John O’Hara - The novelist and short story author was born in Pottsville, Pa., in 1905. In 1934, he published his first novel, Appointment in Samarra, named as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the century by the Modern Library. The book tells of the story of a jet-set couple living in prohibition era "Gibbsville," the book’s name for O’Hara’s hometown. A short list of O’Hara’s other works include Butterfield 8, Ten North Frederick, From the Terrace, A Rage to Live and a short story collection, Waiting for Winter. O’Hara died in 1970.

Anne Marie Winston - The romance novelist is a Pennsylvania native and former teacher from Waynesboro, Adams County. Winston begin writing romance novels in 1989. She has received many awards for her novels, which include Carolina on my Mind, Best Kept Secrets, Island Baby, Unlikely Eden, and Cowboy Style.

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Did You Know . . .

- The average annual rural wage increased 4.4 percent from 1994 to 1998 (rate was adjusted for inflation).

- Two out of every 100 rural residents in Pennsylvania are people of color. One out of every 100 rural residents is Hispanic.

- Between 1991 and 1998, enrollment in rural schools increased 3.9 percent.

- Between July and December 1998, rural and urban areas had nearly identical participation rates in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

- In 1996, rural areas were served by 418 ambulance providers and 955 volunteer firefighting organizations.

- In 1996, Pennsylvania’s rural health care industry employed nearly 84,000 people, or nearly 12 percent of the state’s rural workforce.

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Community Revitalization Grant Awards
Rural and urban organizations that received Community Revitalization Grant monies tended to spend the bulk of their awards on building and rehabilitation projects, and equipment, according to an analysis conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Focusing on fiscal years 1997-1998 and 1998-1999, the Center also found that while rural organizations accessed the program, they tended to receive fewer awards and less funding than urban organizations.

What is CRGP?

Administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Community Revitalization Grant Program (CRGP) was established in 1997 to support "local initiatives that improve the stability of a community and enhance local economic conditions."

Local governments, municipal and redevelopment authorities, industrial development authorities and agencies, and non-profit organizations are all eligible for program funding. The program does not require any matching funds and may be used for a wide variety of projects. With these funds, eligible organizations have purchased everything from baseball gear to life support equipment.

To learn more about the CRGP, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania obtained data from DCED’s Office of Legislative Affairs for fiscal years 1997-1998 and 1998-1999. The data listed information, by county, on the amount of each award granted, the name of the organization receiving the award, and how the grant money was used. The report for 1997-1998, however, did not include information on how the money was used.

Organizations that received funding through the program were separated into six categories for the analysis. For 1999, the data was also separated according to how the funding was spent.

How much and to whom

During 1997-1998 and 1998-1999, nearly 3,300 grants totaling over $80 million were awarded to organizations in 66 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. No Sullivan County organization received an award during either fiscal year. About 20 percent or 655 of the awards were received by rural organizations. Urban organizations received about 80 percent or 2,641 of the awards.

Regionally, organizations in the southeast received the most awards with 30 percent, or 981 awards. Organizations in the southwest region followed with 28 percent, or 931 awards. Organizations in the northeast region followed with 15 percent, or 497 awards. Organizations in the southcentral region had 10 percent or 344; in the central region had 9 percent or 299; and in the northwest had 7 percent or 244.

On a county basis, organizations in Allegheny County received the most awards with 17 percent or 573 of the total number of awards. Philadelphia County organizations received 12 percent or 410; Montgomery County organizations with 7 percent or 231; and Delaware County organizations with 5 percent or 150. Two organizations each received awards in Union, Montour and Cameron counties.

In total, organizations in rural areas received over $11 million in awards, which amounted to 14 percent of the total monies distributed. Urban organizations received 86 percent of the total dollar amount.

Rural organizations tended to receive smaller awards than urban organizations. About 42 percent of rural organizations received awards of $10,000 or less, while 39 percent of urban organizations received that amount. While 9 percent of awards to urban organizations topped $50,000, 6 percent of awards to rural organizations were over that amount. Other award amounts to rural organizations were as follows: 28 percent received between $10,000 and $14,999; 15 percent received $15,000 to $24,999; and 9 percent received $25,000 to $49,999. Urban organizations received the following: 27 percent received $10,000 to $14,999; 13 percent received $15,000 to $24,999; and 12 percent received $25,000 to $49,999. The average rural organization award was about $17,000, while the average urban organization award was over $26,000.

More than 51 percent of the rural organizations used their awards to build or rehabilitate buildings, compared to about 36 percent of urban organizations. About 20 percent of rural organizations also used the funding for equipment purchases, and almost 22 percent of urban organizations used the funding for equipment. While more than 16 percent of urban organizations used the funding for organizational expenses, only about 7 percent of rural organizations did so. Other high-ranking projects on both rural and urban lists included vehicle purchases and computer purchases or upgrades.

Want more info?

For the fact sheet, Community Revitalization Grants, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Just the Facts: Rural Liquor Sales
Analysis of data from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board provides the following information on liquor sales in rural Pennsylvania.

In 1999, the 145 state liquor stores in rural Pennsylvania sold more than 3.4 million gallons of wine and spirits. This is enough to create a five-acre pond that is 2 feet deep.

On a per capita basis, each rural Pennsylvanian purchased 1.35 gallons of alcohol in 1999. Urban residents bought an average of 2.38 gallons per person. Between 1995 and 1999, the total gallons purchased in rural areas increased nearly 13 percent, while urban areas saw a 6 percent increase.

More than 10.7 million units, or bottles, of alcohol were sold in rural state stores in 1999. If these bottles were lined up end-to-end, they would reach from Harrisburg to Reno, Nevada, some 2,200 miles long.

On a per capita basis, there are more state stores in rural areas than in urban areas. In rural areas, there is one state store for every 17,600 residents. In urban areas, there is one store for every 18,500 residents.

On a typical day in 1999, the average rural state store sold about 250 bottles of wine and spirits. On this same day, the average urban store sold nearly 490 bottles — almost twice as many.

Rural residents purchased 4.2 bottles of wine and spirits per person in 1999. Urban residents, on the other hand, purchased an average of 7.9 bottles per person. Between 1993 and 1999, the total number of bottles sold increased 2 percent in rural stores, while in urban stores there was a 5 percent decline.

Cash registers in rural state stores rang up more than $114.5 million in sales in 1999 - or about $2,625 per store per day. The average urban store had almost $5,420 in sales per store per day. Urban stores had seven times the amount of sales as rural stores, or $830 million.

On a per capita basis, rural residents spent $45 at state stores in 1999 while urban residents spent $88. Despite the lower per capita sales, rural state stores saw a 7 percent increase in total sales between 1993 and 1999, while urban store sales increased by 4 percent.

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