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March/April 2009

Inside This Issue:


Studies Assess Unemployment, Underemployment in Rural PA
Unemployment rates in rural Pennsylvania have surpassed urban rates since at least the 1970s, according to county-level data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Over the 10-year period of 1996 to 2006, rural unemployment rates were, on average, about 1 percentage point higher than urban rates.

To get a deeper understanding of unemployment and take a look at the relatively unexplored problem of underemployment in rural Pennsylvania, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania sponsored two research projects in 2006.

One project, Determining Policy Options for Reducing Unemployment and Underemployment in Rural Pennsylvania, was conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University to document unemployment trends and analyze unemployment rates in Pennsylvania’s rural counties over a 30-year period.

The other project, Assessing Rural Underemployment and Unemployment in Pennsylvania, was conducted by researchers from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and focused on the forces causing unemployment, underemployment, or withdrawals from the labor market in rural Pennsylvania.

Policy considerations from both research projects stress the importance of an educated workforce and the need for diversification in both economic strategy and occupation mix in rural Pennsylvania to possibly reduce both underemployment and unemployment.

Penn State research
In addition to documenting unemployment trends and analyzing unemployment rates from 1976 to 2005, Drs. Jill L. Findeis, Martin Shields and Sundar Shrestha also measured rates of underemployment for Pennsylvania and neighboring and nearby states with data from 1996 to 2006. They also used more recent data from 2005-2006 to understand selected dimensions of underemployment, such as the age and education levels of the underemployed, in rural Pennsylvania.

Results of the study showed that Pennsylvania has experienced a remarkably persistent unemployment gap between the state’s rural and urban counties since at least 1976. Over the past 30 years, Pennsylvania’s rural and urban unemployment trends have mirrored U.S. averages, with rural rates being consistently higher. The researchers found the rural-urban unemployment gap to be statistically significant, and there were no years in which the rural-urban rates were statistically equal. This suggests meaningful, long-term differences in Pennsylvania’s average rural and urban unemployment rates. The results also showed that unemployment was a widespread problem in rural counties and that all persistent unemployment counties in Pennsylvania were rural. Fortunately, not all persistent unemployment counties were pre-destined to remain that way as some had improved over time.

In terms of underemployment, the results showed that more than one in five working-age Pennsylvanians was underemployed from 1996 to 2006.

For Pennsylvania’s rural counties, the results showed that a higher degree of industry diversity and a better educated workforce contributed to lower rates of unemployment and underemployment. Residents of Pennsylvania’s more remote rural counties were more likely to be underemployed, as were those living in service-dependent counties.

The results also indicated that underemployment is a problem statewide. While some of Pennsylvania’s highest unemployment counties had higher underemployment rates, not all did. In many respects, the use of underemployment rather than unemployment as an indicator of labor market distress provides a deeper understanding of the labor market issues faced by Pennsylvania’s residents.

Indiana University research
Drs. David B. Yerger and Jack D. Julian conducted their research to better understand the forces causing unemployment, underemployment, or withdrawals from the labor market in rural Pennsylvania. They compared labor markets in each rural Pennsylvania county to each other, to urban Pennsylvania counties, and to carefully defined peer groups of similar counties nationwide to get a clear sense of the strength, or weakness, of a county’s labor market along with a realistic forecast of what might be achievable.

The researchers analyzed the impact of both industrial structure and occupation mix on overall job growth in rural Pennsylvania since 2001 and on the fraction of jobs in a county likely to be available for college graduates versus jobs for those with high school diplomas only.

After assessing employment to working-age population ratios, the researchers found that the largest impact on a county’s employment-to-population ratio was the percentage of adults with high school diplomas. They concluded that government programs aimed at reducing rural high school drop-out rates should be regarded as important components of a rural economic development strategy.

However, the research also revealed that, while rural counties within the state have relatively higher rates of educational attainment than their national peer group counties, Pennsylvania’s rural counties have, on average, higher unemployment rates than their peer groups. This suggests that lagging educational attainment alone does not explain the higher unemployment seen in the state’s rural counties.

In terms of underemployment, the researchers looked at unrealistic expectations concerning the percentage of the adult working-age population that could be pulled into the county’s labor force even under high labor demand conditions. They found that underemployment arises from more than just lagging education distributions; inadequate labor demand also was a relevant factor.

The research also showed that the problem of underemployment for college graduates in rural Pennsylvania is caused, in part, by industry and occupation mixes skewed away from college graduate workers. The researchers concluded that any meaningful improvement in rural counties’ underemployment will need to include expanded labor demand in occupations favoring college-educated workers. This suggests that the state’s rural economic development funding programs give some priority to business expansions that may increase the share of jobs in a county requiring college graduates.

Research results available
Both research results are available in the publication, Studies on Unemployment and Underemployment in Rural Pennsylvania. Call the Center at (717) 787-9555, email or visit for a copy.


Center Releases 2010 Request for Proposals
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania released its 2010 Request for Proposals (RFP) in early March and is now accepting Letters of Intent for the 2010 Research Grant Program. Targeted topics for the Research Grant and Mini Grant Programs focus on emergency medical service providers, an examination of criminal offenders, rural school building closings, Pennsylvanians’ attitudes toward renewable energy, transportation services available to rural military veterans for medical services, an examination of rural County Veterans Affairs Offices, financing part-time post-secondary education, the sustainability of Main Street Programs in rural Pennsylvania, an open call for Marcellus shale studies, an open call on meeting the challenges of the recession, an analysis of Pennsylvania mental health/mental retardation funding (mini grant), and an analysis of Small Business Development Center use in Pennsylvania (mini grant).

The Center’s Research Grant Program is available to faculty members at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities and the Pennsylvania State University. The Center encourages cooperation and collaboration between these faculty and other public or private organizations on grant projects.

The grant program offers a maximum funding level of $50,000 per project per year. Grant projects may be renewed for up to three years if further research is necessary but each grantee must meet the current year grant requirements and submit yearly competitive proposals.

Mini grants are awarded to projects that focus on basic data collection and analysis, time-sensitive issues, and/or the preparation of reference materials. Projects sponsored as mini grants are for a maximum of nine months in duration and are eligible for a maximum of $10,000 in Center support.

For more information or to receive an RFP, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or visit the Center’s website at


Chairman’s Message
Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million citizens are quite different. We are city dwellers, suburbanites and country residents. We are young, middle-aged and older. We come in all shapes and sizes, and from different cultures and various backgrounds. And, we all have our particular interests, personal perspectives and individual needs. We are all Pennsylvanians, yet, we are very diverse Pennsylvanians.

Now, let’s consider for a moment how our Rural Perspectives readers are much like our state’s residents. After all, you are members of the General Assembly, executive branch agency personnel, local government officials, staff members of nonprofit organizations and community groups, academics, business people, media and the general public. You are one readership, yet very diverse in particular interests, personal perspectives, and individual needs for information.

So consider further, if you will, how the Center for Rural Pennsylvania serves you, this very diverse 4,500-person strong audience, through its bi-monthly newsletter. In every issue, the Center strives to provide information through snapshot stories on the results of research projects, data-filled articles, current events and helpful resources that can address your particular interests, broaden your personal perspectives and meet your individual needs for information.

Legislators, for example, may find value in the public policy considerations of completed research, such as our recent work on the under- and unemployed, which is highlighted on Pages 1 and 3.

Grant writers, community planners and human service providers often comment on the benefits of our extensive and wide-ranging data analysis, such as our 60-year look at population trends, our review of the 2007 Census of Agriculture and our look at teenage birth rates.

The media often cite our research and data in their articles about rural Pennsylvania. Our readers, from Corry to Chester and Honesdale to Uniontown, consistently seem to find value in the information we provide. The feedback we receive is overwhelmingly supportive.
Thomas Jefferson once said: “Information is the currency of democracy.” In its 20-plus years of service to the General Assembly and the people of this commonwealth, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has worked to be a creditable and reliable source of information.

Pennsylvania is home to the nation’s third largest rural population and information about our rural residents and communities is important to both Harrisburg and Washington as policies and programs affecting all citizens are considered.

This March-April issue continues the Center’s efforts to provide our very diverse audience with recent research findings, relevant demographic data, and timely resources.

Whether you skim the headlines to find an article of interest, or read Rural Perspectives cover to cover, I trust you will find something of value and practical use to your work.

Senator John Gordner


State Launches Economic Recovery Information Site
In March, the state launched, as a resource for people who have questions or want to learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Barak Obama on February 17, 2009. The site specifically looks at how money will be used to help Pennsylvania residents and businesses. For more information, visit


Highlights from the 2007 Census of Agriculture
More and more consumers are starting to ask questions about how and where their food is grown.

For some basic facts about farms and farming in the United States, consumers can start with the Census of Agriculture. The census is conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) every five years to take a complete count of U.S. farms and the people who operate them.

The Census also looks at a wide range of issues, such as land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, and farm income and expenditures.

In February, NASS released data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The data is available at both the state and county levels and can be accessed at

Following are some highlights from the 2007 Census of Agriculture and a comparison with the results of the 2002 Census.

• In 2007, there were 63,163 farms in Pennsylvania, an increase of 9 percent from 2002.  Nationally, there were more than 2.2 million farms, an increase of 4 percent from 2002. 

• In Pennsylvania, the counties with largest increase in the number of farms were Montour, Philadelphia and Wyoming, each with an increase of more than 80 percent. The counties with the largest decrease in the number of farms were Chester, Lehigh, Susquehanna and Washington, each with a decline of 9 percent or more.

• In 2007, Pennsylvania farms sold more than $5.8 billion of agricultural products. Fifty-one percent of these sales, however, occurred in the seven south-central Pennsylvania counties of Adams, Berks, Chester, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York.

• From 2002 to 2007, the number of farms with sales from $25,000 to $49,999 increased the fastest (25 percent), while farms with sales from $50,000 to $99,999 had the largest decrease (20 percent).

• In Pennsylvania, there was a slight, but positive, increase in farmland from 2002 to 2007. In 2007, there were 7.8 million acres of farmland, an increase of 1 percent from 2002. Pennsylvania is one of 15 states that had an increase in farmland.

• Forty of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties gained farmland from 2002 to 2007. The counties with the largest increases were Delaware, Forest and Pike, each with a 50 percent or more gain. Among the 29 counties that lost farmland, Susquehanna, Washington and Wayne had the greatest decline, each with more than 15 percent.

• The Pennsylvania counties with the highest average market value for their land and buildings were Chester, Lehigh and Franklin counties. In each of these counties, the average farm market value was more than $950,000. The counties with the lowest values were Cameron, Elk and McKean. In each of these counties, the average farm had a market value of less than $310,000.

• From 2002 to 2007, the cost of fuel, gasoline and oil for Pennsylvania farmers increased 93 percent. In 2002, the average cost of fuel per acre was $16.20; in 2007, this average increased to $31.45 per acre.

• Pennsylvania has 680 organic farms, which account for 1 percent of all farms. Among the states, Pennsylvania ranked sixth in the total number of organic farms.

• In 2007, women were the principal operators of 8,550 farms, or 13 percent of all farms. From 2002 to 2007, the number of women-operated farms increased 41 percent.

• In 2007, 11,722 farms, or 19 percent of all farms, in Pennsylvania had hired labor.  In 2002, 13,512 farms, or 23 percent of all farms, had hired labor.

• Eighty-four percent of Pennsylvania farms have tractors. These farms average 2.8 tractors. The national average is 2.4 tractors per farm.

• In 2007, the average Pennsylvania farmer was 55 years old, and has been on the same farm for an average of 22 years. 

• Twenty-nine percent of Pennsylvania farms in 2007 had high-speed Internet access. The national rate was 33 percent. Pennsylvania ranked 39th among states for the percentage of farms with high-speed Internet access. States with the highest percent of high-speed Internet access on farms were Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In each of these states, more than 50 percent of farms had high-speed access. Among Pennsylvania counties, Bucks, Delaware and Pike counties had the highest percentage of farms with high-speed Internet access: more than 51 percent of farms in each of these counties had high-speed Internet access

• In Pennsylvania, 46 percent of all farms have barns built before 1960. New York had the nation’s highest percentage of older barns (48 percent).

• In 2007, 379 farms in Pennsylvania marketed products through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  Lancaster and Chester counties had the most CSAs at 47 and 20, respectively. Nationally, there are more than 12,549 CSAs.

• Two Pennsylvania counties, Bradford and Fulton, had more cows (cattle and calves) than people. Nationwide, 1,172 counties, or 37 percent, had more cows than people.


Back to the Future: A 60-Year Look at Pennsylvania’s Population
How has Pennsylvania’s rural population changed over the past 30 years and what kind of changes might it expect in the future? A 60-year analysis of population data and population projections by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania revealed that rural Pennsylvania’s population is likely to grow slowly and unevenly, and the average age of its residents will increase.

To conduct the analysis, the Center looked at two, 30-year time periods – 1970 to 2000 and 2000 to 2030 – and used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Pennsylvania State Data Center, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  The Center used its definition of rural: a county is rural when its population density (number of persons per square land mile) was below the statewide average of 274. A county with a population density at or above the statewide average was considered urban.

One caveat with the finding: they are based on projections. Economic shifts, changes in immigration law, and many other factors could fundamentally change these projections. At the county level, these projections become even less reliable due to changes in housing development and business growth and decline. Despite these limitations, the projections provide a useful window for examining Pennsylvania’s future population changes.

Rural Pennsylvania Population Change
1970 to 2000

• In 1970, Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties were home to 3.05 million residents. By 2000, that number increased to 3.39 million, an increase of 11 percent.

• Rural Pennsylvania experienced uneven population growth over this period. Adams, Butler, Centre, Monroe and Pike counties accounted for 73 percent of this growth. Fourteen counties lost population.

• Rural population change was significantly correlated with changes in the number of minorities, employment, and housing units.

• The population increase was driven by a combination of births and in-migration. During this period, there were 227,900 more births than deaths. Rural Pennsylvania also experienced three migration waves during this 30-year period. During the first wave, from 1970 to 1980, rural counties gained about 92,200 new residents; during the second, from 1980 to 1990, rural counties lost about 110,300 residents because of out-migration to other areas; and during the third, from 1990 to 2000, rural counties gained nearly 101,500 residents. The net result of these migration waves was a gain of more than 83,000 residents.

• During the last rural migration wave (1990-2000), the distribution of new residents was not widespread. Adams, Butler, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties became home to nearly 70 percent of new residents.

2000 to 2030

• In 2030, rural counties are projected to have a total population of 3.57 million, an increase of 5 percent from 2000.

• The population growth will again be uneven, as 20 rural counties are projected to have a population gain and 28 counties are projected to have a population loss. The counties that are projected to gain population - Butler, Monroe, and Pike - will account for 52 percent of the growth.

• There is no significant correlation between population change and the natural rate of population change (births minus deaths). This could suggest that most of the future population growth will be driven by in-migration rather than increasing births.

Urban Pennsylvania Population Change
1970 to 2000

• In 1970, 8.73 million people lived in Pennsylvania’s 19 urban counties. In 2000, the population increased 2 percent to 8.88 million.

• The slow growth among urban counties was largely the result of population losses in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. Excluding these two counties, the remaining 17 urban counties had a combined population increase of 17 percent.

• Urban population change was significantly correlated with changes in housing units and employment.

2000 to 2030

• In 2030, projections show that 9.62 million people will live in urban Pennsylvania, an increase of 730,000 residents, or 8 percent, from 2000.

• Thirteen of Pennsylvania’s 19 urban counties are projected to see a population increase from 2000 to 2030. The fastest growing county is Chester, with a 60 percent increase. Seven urban counties are projected to lose population. The largest declines are expected in Allegheny and Beaver counties, each with a loss of 11 percent or more.

United States Population Change
1970 to 2000

• In 1970, there were 203.3 million people living in the U.S. In 2000, this number increased to 281.4 million, a gain of 78.1 million people or 38 percent.

• Five states doubled their population: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Utah. Pennsylvania had a 4 percent increase and was the nation’s 46th fastest growing state.

2000 to 2030

• In 2030, projections show that 363.6 million people will live in the U.S., a 29 percent increase from 2000, or 82.2 million residents.

• The fastest growing states are projected to be Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas. Each is expected to see a 60 percent or more increase in population. Pennsylvania is projected to have a 4 percent population gain and will be the nation’s 45th fastest growing state.

Fact sheet available
More information related to these projections is available in the fact sheet, A 60-Year Perspective on Pennsylvania’s Rural Population. Call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit for a copy.


Teenage Birth Rates Increased from 2005 to 2006
In 2006, 12 out of every 1,000 teenage girls (defined as minors between the ages of 15 and 17 years old) in rural Pennsylvania gave birth, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In urban areas, the ratio was 17 births for every 1,000 teenage girls.

That same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the national rate was 22 births for every 1,000 teenage girls.

According to the CDC data, Pennsylvania ranked 37th in the rate of teenagers who became mothers (16.6 births per 1,000 teens). Arizona, New Mexico and Texas had the nation’s highest rates, with more than 35 births per 1,000 teens. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont had the nation’s lowest rates, with less than 11 births per 1,000 teens. 

Within Pennsylvania, Berks, Dauphin, Fayette, Lehigh, Mifflin and Philadelphia counties had the highest rates of teenage mothers, with more than 20 births per 1,000 teens per county. The counties with the lowest rates were Centre, Wayne and Forest, each with less than 4 births per 1,000 teens per county.

From 2005 to 2006, the number of births by teenagers increased nationally and in rural and urban Pennsylvania.  The U.S. experienced a 3 percent increase, and rural and urban Pennsylvania each saw a 4 percent increase. This increase, however, comes after a decade of decline. From 1996 to 2006, the number of rural teenagers having babies decreased 34 percent and the number of urban teens having babies decreased 23 percent. 

One possible reason for the increase: more teenage girls in 2006 than 1996.  The number of girls (ages 15 to 17) increased 8 percent in rural counties and 18 percent in urban counties from 1996 to 2006. This increase, however, likely is short-lived. According to population projects by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of teenage girls in this age group in Pennsylvania is projected to decline 14 percent by 2015.

Teenage (15 to 17 years old) Birth Rate, 1990 to 2006

Data source: Pennsylvania Department of Health


Just the Facts: Municipalities Collecting the Local Services Tax
Every weekday, more than 1.1 million rural Pennsylvanians commute out of their home municipality to go to work. Many of these commuters pay a Local Services Tax (LST) for the local government services they use while they are at work. 

In June 2007, the Local Services Tax Act (Act 7) replaced the Emergency and Municipal Services Tax. Act 7 allows municipal governments to collect up to $52 annually for each person working within a municipality. The act contains a revenue sharing provision with school districts and certain restrictions, such as exemptions for disabled veterans, military personal and low-income individuals. Act 7 stipulates that certain portions of the tax be used for police, fire and emergency services, and property tax relief.

According to 2008 data from the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, the majority of rural municipalities (60 percent) do not collect the LST. Among urban municipalities, the opposite is true; 84 percent of collected the LST in 2008.

There are a number of differences between rural municipalities that collect the LST and those that do not. For example, rural boroughs were more likely to collect the LST than rural townships (51 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

Also, rural municipalities that collect the tax tend to have larger populations (2,200), on average, and greater average total revenues ($930,000) than rural municipalities that do not collect the tax (1,500 average population and $520,000 average total revenues).

Rural municipalities that collect the tax also have lower median household incomes and lower housing values than those who do not collect the tax.

Among rural municipalities that collect the LST, 52 percent assessed each employee who works in the municipality $10 or less; 11 percent assessed employees between $11 and $46; and 38 percent assessed employees between $47 and the maximum of $52. Among urban municipalities that collect the LST, 75 percent collect between $47 and $52 per employee.