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 2008

Inside This Issue:


Center Announces 2008 Grant Awards
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has awarded more than $400,000 in grant funds to faculty members from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PaSSHE) universities and Pennsylvania State University to conduct research on rural issues. The five faculty members from PaSSHE and five faculty members from Penn State University conducting the research started their projects in January.

The research projects were approved by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors and cover a wide range of issues to provide data and policy information to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

2008 Grant Projects
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s traditional grant program offers a maximum funding level of $50,000 per project per year. The Center’s mini grant program offers a maximum funding level of $10,000 per project for a nine-month period. The research grant projects are summarized below.

Examination of Small Business Owners in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Ramesh Soni of Indiana University of Pennsylvania will profile small business owners in rural Pennsylvania and assess their use of the resources available to them in the start-up, growth, and transition phases of their small business. The study will also include an analysis of best practices and model programs that help to create a climate conducive to rural small business success.

Examination of Services to Adults with Developmental Disabilities in Pennsylvania
Dr. Beth Mabry of Indiana University of Pennsylvania will analyze the training of direct care workers who serve aging adults with developmental disabilities. The research will include a survey of current practices and challenges, particularly in rural areas, and an analysis of policies and training content to identify best practices.

An Analysis of Rural Hospital Financial Conditions
Dr. Jami DelliFraine of Pennsylvania State University will use multiple data sources and key informant interviews to assess the financial health of Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals. The researcher will identify appropriate indicators that can be used to determine the long- and short-term financial health of rural hospitals and will also examine the corresponding impact of organizational structure, local market influences, and strategic alliances on the financial performance of rural hospitals.

An Analysis of Rural Hospital Financial Conditions
John M. Trussel of Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg will also study rural hospital financial conditions. This research will develop models for evaluating the financial health of rural hospitals in Pennsylvania to: determine the risk factors associated with financial distress; predict whether or not a hospital will become financially distressed; and predict the survival rate of financially distressed hospitals.

Rural Pennsylvanians’ Attitudes: Continuity and Change
Dr. Fern K. Willits of Pennsylvania State University will survey rural Pennsylvanians to assess their attitudes toward a variety of social issues. The results will be compared with findings from earlier surveys carried out in 1999, 2000, and 2003.

Examination of Rural Leaders
Dr. Lee L. Williams of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania will develop two dozen geographically and experientially diverse case studies of active rural leaders and conduct focus groups where experiences with rural leadership will be shared. The data collected will be used to identify relevant policy recommendations related to rural leadership development in Pennsylvania.

Survey of Emergency Management and Preparedness Agencies in Pennsylvania’s Rural Counties
Dr. Jamie Mitchem of California University of Pennsylvania will analyze emergency preparedness in Pennsylvania by comparing rural and urban counties, and by comparing rural Pennsylvania counties to those in neighboring states. The research will also produce an overview of current fiscal and legislative requirements, which will be compared to the results of a web-based survey of emergency management practitioners.

Computer Security Readiness Assessment for Small Municipalities in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Jungwoo Ryoo of Pennsylvania State University – Altoona will measure the computer security readiness in small municipalities throughout rural Pennsylvania. This study will investigate whether these municipalities: are equipped with necessary software and hardware infrastructures; have employees with proper computer and security literacy; and have adopted best practices for daily information processing.

Rural Youth Education Project, Wave III
Dr. Diane McLaughlin of Pennsylvania State University will continue a Center for Rural Pennsylvania longitudinal project examining the factors influencing the educational and career aspirations and attainment of rural youth in Pennsylvania.

Financial Performance of Small Banks in Pennsylvania
Dr. Victoria Geyfman of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania will examine banking conditions of local Pennsylvania markets, including their growth opportunities, barriers to bank entry, and the competitive environment among rural and metro banks. This mini-grant research project will also examine the effects of industry consolidation on small business lending during the past two decades.

Topics for 2009
As this year’s grantees begin their projects, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s board is identifying topics for the 2009 Grant Program. The grant topics will address relevant issues impacting Pennsylvania’s 3.4 million rural residents. After the topics have been approved, the Center will issue its Request for Proposals (RFP) in February.

While the Center’s grant program is only available to faculty at PaSSHE and Penn State universities, the Center encourages cooperation and collaboration between these faculty and other public or private organizations.

For more information about the 2009 RFP or to receive a copy, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit


Research Examines Network of Rural Pennsylvania Food Pantries
Hunger is no stranger to rural Pennsylvanians. According to the 2004 Food Security Supplement of the federal Current Population Survey, about 4 percent of rural Pennsylvanians could be considered food insecure with hunger. That percentage exceeded the 3 percent found nationally, the 3 percent found in rural America, and the 2 percent found in non-rural areas of Pennsylvania. 

To combat hunger, and supplement a wide array of federally and state-financed anti-hunger programs, food pantries have been supplying food to needy households throughout Pennsylvania for many years.

And, while food pantries, which are often operated locally and staffed by volunteers, have become an important component of the private food assistance system, the extent and impact of food pantries in rural Pennsylvania is unclear. To examine the adequacy of the network of food pantries that serve the needy in Pennsylvania’s rural counties, Dr. Suzanne McDevitt of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Beth Osborne Daponte of Yale University analyzed food insecurity and food assistance in Pennsylvania using the federal Current Population Survey. The researchers also analyzed the food assistance administrative system in Pennsylvania, conducted a survey of Pennsylvania food pantry operators in 2006, and developed policy considerations based on their research.

Research results
According to their analysis of the Current Population Survey, the researchers found that rural Pennsylvanians suffer more food insecurity and depend more on the food pantry networks than those nationally.

The pantry administrator survey found a stable but stressed network that many clients depend on for at least part of their basic sustenance. As need increases, pantry operators reported significant challenges with resources, transportation and the volunteer network.

Pantry administrators also reported that many clients depend, and have depended for years, on food pantries, and only half of participants received food stamps. When asked what would happen to clients if the food pantry closed, one-third of the respondents said clients would go hungry.

Due to a lack of comparable studies, the researchers could not determine the health of the pantry network versus other states. However, they noted that the existence of the State Food Purchase Program ensures that every county provides at least some food assistance to needy Pennsylvanians.

The researchers identified several policy considerations that could further support the food pantry network and the delivery of food assistance to Pennsylvanians, including the following:

Research results available
For a copy of the research results, An Examination of Food Assistance Availability to Rural Pennsylvanians, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555, email or visit


Chairman’s Message
January is a busy month. It often brings about personal resolutions and good intentions to improve something in our lives and may bring about new responsibilities and opportunities.

At the county and local levels, hundreds of recently elected officials have taken their oaths of office and begun their duties. Bookkeepers and accountants welcome the start of a new tax season. And for more than 400,000 annual visitors, it means the start of the internationally known Pennsylvania Farm Show – the 92nd to date. 

January is also a busy month at the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. As detailed on Pages 1 and 3, faculty and their teams from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities and Pennsylvania State University (PSU) have initiated their work plans as part of the Center’s 2008 Grant Program.

From the detailed listing of funded projects, you can see the topics are quite varied.  They illustrate the diversity of issues and opportunities rural Pennsylvania communities are facing in 2008. They also hold considerable potential to provide important information and policy considerations to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. And, as we have seen from prior research, the results prove useful for state agencies, local governments and organizations throughout the commonwealth.  

As this year’s researchers begin their projects, draft final reports for the 2007 grant cycle are starting to filter into the Center’s offices. Staff reviews them for content and contract compliance and, once assured of their thoroughness and accuracy, prepares them for board review and acceptance. 

All of this occurs while previously accepted reports continue to be edited and prepared for publication and release to the General Assembly and the public. Highlights of a recently released report on food insecurity and food assistance are included in this issue, as well as information about a current project on intergenerational wealth transfer, mentioned on Page 4.

This project warrants particular note for its potential to impact Pennsylvania. Using recently released Census population projections to the year 2030, the Center will calculate the amount of personal wealth that is likely to be transferred over the next 25 years in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania.  This information will serve as a major building block for strategies to capture some of that wealth for local community and economic development efforts.

Another layer of activity this January is the identification of potential research topics for the Center’s 2009 grant cycle. At our first board meeting of every year, board members and staff bring potential research ideas to the table for review. The ideas are based on input from each board member’s working knowledge of rural Pennsylvania; issues that rural communities are or may be addressing in the coming years; and prior research findings. The board also gleans ideas from state and federal agencies, state and local organizations, academia, and any number of other sources that know rural Pennsylvania.

Once the ideas for the next research round have been reviewed, and the board approves the targeted research topics, the Center will prepare and issue its formal 2009 Request for Proposals. Another cycle has begun and the work continues.  

As the year progresses, we will continue sharing the results of our research and database on rural Pennsylvania with you. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Senator John Gordner


Foundation Leader Emphasizes Benefits of Inter-Generational Wealth Transfer to Rural Communities
Rural Pennsylvania communities can achieve sustained community development and build endowments for the benefit of all community members. That’s the message Jeffrey G. Yost, president and CEO of the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF), shared with members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and rural advocates who attended the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s 20th Anniversary dinner on November 19, 2007.

NCF is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides Nebraskans and former Nebraskans an easy way to give back to the state and their communities. The foundation, created in 1993, is demonstrating how rural communities can use philanthropy and the transfer of wealth to build sustained community development strategies and break out of a cycle of dependency.

Using a study to measure inter-generational wealth transfer, the foundation estimated that $250 billion will be transferred in Nebraska in the next 25 years, and nearly $100 billion of that in rural Nebraska, which are places with populations of 10,000 and less. If only 5 percent of this wealth was gifted to community betterment projects and endowments, it could equate to $5 million for a Nebraska community of 1,000.

“Places that do well are places that control their own local assets,” Yost said. “That’s why the foundation exists–to encourage proactive investments in the future of Nebraska communities, through private sector investment, philanthropic gifts and estate planning.”

Pennsylvania Transfer of Wealth study
In 2007, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors approved a study to measure inter-generational wealth transfer in Pennsylvania. The work will result in county level estimates on the amount of personal wealth likely to be transferred from one generation to the next. It will cover a transfer period of 25 years, and will be conducted on all 67 counties in the commonwealth. Center staff is working with Don Macke of the Rural Policy Research Institute’s (RUPRI) Center for Rural Entrepreneurship to conduct the study.

For Pennsylvania, this work will result in useful information on the amount of wealth Baby Boomers and their parents will likely leave behind. For community foundations and other locally based organizations, tapping into this wealth through estate planning and bequeaths could provide the needed capital for a variety of programs and services that support a better quality of life.

In Nebraska, for example, where NCF handles the administration of more than 199 affiliated funds operating in 163 communities, funds have been used for schools, 4-H groups, parks, playgrounds, hospitals, libraries, and economic development.

In the last five years, more than 27,000 individual donations have been given to NCF and its affiliated funds and, as a result, the foundation has significantly grown to over $48 million in investments and expectancies. This total includes $25 million in assets, $15 million of which is permanently endowed.

“The power of giving cannot be overstated,” Yost said. “Years of research conclude that communities that reinvest in themselves are the most prosperous, have the greatest sense of place and are the most welcoming to young families upon which the future can be built.”

For more information on the Nebraska Community Foundation, visit


WREN Funding Available for Education Projects
The Water Resources Education Network (WREN) of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania Citizen Education Fund is accepting grant proposals for water resources education projects. Projects should be designed to build an informed citizenry, who will protect water resources with actions at home, at work and within the community.

Grants of up to $5,000 per project will be awarded. Eligible applicants include partnerships of local or regional organizations, such as watershed associations, civic groups, community water systems, governmental entities and other public interest organizations.

The deadline to submit applications is April 2, 2008.

For more information or a grant application, email or call (800) 692-7281, ext. 10. The grant application is also available online at or


Board Thanks Dr. C. Shannon Stokes for Decade of Service, Welcomes Dr. Theodore Alter
At its November 2007 meeting, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors thanked Dr. C. Shannon Stokes of Pennsylvania State University for his long-standing service to the board. Dr. Stokes, whose board resignation became effective in January 2008, had been a member of the board since 1998. He most recently served as secretary.

At the November meeting, the board presented Dr. Stokes with a plaque to commemorate his exemplary service and dedication to the board and to rural Pennsylvania.

In January, the Center welcomed Dr. Theodore R. Alter of Pennsylvania State University to its board.

Dr. Alter is professor of agricultural, environmental, and regional economics in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. He also served as Penn State’s associate vice president for outreach, associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, and director of Penn State Cooperative Extension from July 1997 to August 2004.

Dr. Alter earned a bachelor’s degree in economics with distinction from the University of Rochester. He received both his master’s degree and doctorate in resource economics and policy from Michigan State University, where he also was a National Defense Education Act Fellow.

Sen. John Gordner and
Dr. C. Shannon Stokes.

Dr. Theodore R. Alter


A Picture of Pennsylvania’s Rural Elderly Women
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, in 2006, there were nearly 325,000 women age 65 years old and older in rural Pennsylvania. This age group made up 19 percent of the 1.74 million rural women statewide.

To learn more about this population and compare it to a similar population in urban areas, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania used a variety of data sources to develop a picture of Pennsylvania’s rural elderly women. The data used in the analysis came from the United States Census Bureau, the Pennsylvania Departments of Aging and Health, and the Rural Pennsylvania Current Population Survey (RuralPA-CPS). 

In 2006, women who were 65 years old and older made up 14 percent (21.6 million) of the 151.7 million women in the United States. Pennsylvania had the fifth highest number of elderly women; California, Florida, New York and Texas each had more elderly women. As a percent of the female population, however, Pennsylvania had the second highest number of elderly women at 17 percent; Florida had the highest with 19 percent.

Between 2000 and 2006, the number of elderly women in rural Pennsylvania declined 1 percent while the number in urban areas declined 4 percent.

According to Census Bureau projections, between 2005 and 2030, the number of elderly women in the United States is expected to increase 87 percent, as members of the Baby Boom generation, or those born between 1946 and 1964, become senior citizens. In Pennsylvania, however, the number of elderly women is expected to increase 46 percent. One reason why the state rate is lower than the national rate is the higher percentage of elderly women already living in Pennsylvania.

Within Pennsylvania, there was no statistical difference between the percent of rural and urban elderly women. There was, however, a significant difference between the percent of rural elderly males and females. In 2006, 14 percent of the rural male population was 65 years old and older, compared to 19 percent of the rural female population: on average, there were 1.4 rural elderly females for every one rural elderly male. Among those rural persons age 85 years old and older, there were 2.2 females for every male. 

According to Census Bureau estimates for Pennsylvania, in 2006, 23 percent of elderly women were between 65 and 69 years old; 42 percent were in their 70s; and the remaining 36 percent were 80 years old and older. These percentages were nearly identical to urban elderly women.

Between 2000 and 2006, the fastest growing group of rural elderly women was those aged 85 years old and older. This age group increased 21 percent. In urban areas, the number of women in this age group increased 9 percent.

According to the 2006-2007 RuralPA-CPS, 52 percent of rural elderly women were married, 39 percent were widowed, 5 percent were divorced or separated, and 4 percent never married. There was no significant difference in the marital status between rural and urban elderly women.

In terms of household make up, 59 percent of rural elderly women lived with a family member, such as a spouse, child, or other relative; 40 percent lived alone; and 1 percent lived with a non-family member, such as a roommate or unmarried partner, according to the 2006-2007 RuralPA-CPS. Among urban elderly women, 56 percent lived with a family member, 43 percent lived alone, and 1 percent lived with a non-family member.

Eighty-six percent of rural elderly women lived in their own home and 14 percent rented their home. Among urban elderly women, 82 percent lived in their own home and 18 percent rented.

In 2006-2007, the median income for rural Pennsylvania households with elderly women was $25,000. For elderly women in urban areas, the median household income was $32,000. 

Rural elderly women living in married couple households had median incomes of $34,000. Those living alone, however, had median incomes of $15,000. In comparison, urban elderly women in married couple households had median incomes of $50,000, while those living alone had median incomes of $14,400.

Statewide, the poverty rate among the elderly was 9 percent, according to the 2006-2007 RuralPA-CPS. Among rural elderly women, however, the poverty rate was 11 percent, and among urban elderly women the rate was 13 percent.

More results
For a copy of the fact sheet, Profile of Pennsylvania Elderly Women, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555, email or visit


Just the Facts: A License to Carry
To obtain a license to carry a firearm in Pennsylvania, individuals must complete a background check. The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) processes background checks and complies with both state and federal laws to determine individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms.

According to the annual State Police Firearms report, the PSP issued a total of 102,473 firearms licenses in Pennsylvania in 2006: 42,949 were issued in rural counties and 59,524 were issued in urban counties. The number of licenses to carry firearms in Pennsylvania increased by 18 percent from 2000. In rural areas, the number of licenses increased by 21 percent, while in urban areas, the number increased 16 percent. Statewide, in 2006, the number of licenses to carry firearms issued per capita was eight licenses for every 1,000 people. In rural counties, 12 licenses for every 1,000 people were issued versus six licenses for every 1,000 people in urban counties.

In 2006, there were 2,463 firearms dealers in Pennsylvania: 1,289 in rural counties and 1,174 in urban counties. From 2000 to 2006, there was a 24 percent decrease in the number of firearms dealers in Pennsylvania. Rural counties saw a 23 percent decrease and urban counties saw a 25 percent decrease.

A total of 165,260 handguns were sold in Pennsylvania in 2006, which is a 4 percent increase in comparison to 2000. Rural counties experienced a 5 percent increase and urban counties saw a 3 percent increase.


Did You Know . . .
• In 2006, it took the average rural worker 24 minutes to get to work: 82 percent of these rural workers drove to work alone, 12 percent carpooled, 5 percent walked or rode a bicycle, and 1 percent used public transportation or other means. Thirty-two percent of rural Pennsylvanians work outside their county of residence. (2006 American Community Survey)

• In 2006, the average rural home (owner-occupied) had 6.3 rooms. In urban areas, the average home had 6.6 rooms. (2006 American Community Survey)

• In 2006, 18 percent of rural adults (25 years old and older) had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2000, 15 percent of rural adults had a bachelor’s degree or higher. (2006 American Community Survey and Census 2000)