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May/June 2002

Inside This Issue:


Welfare Reform Examined
In March 1997, Pennsylvania implemented the welfare reform initiatives of the federal government. To determine how families in rural Pennsylvania were fairing under the reforms, specifically the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania sponsored a study in 2000, conducted by Dr. C. Nielson Brasher of Shippensburg University, and his team of researchers. The year-long study of the TANF program found that, from a caseload perspective, welfare reform appears to be successful.

Specifically, there were 40 percent fewer TANF recipients in July 2000 than March 1997 statewide and 55 percent fewer TANF recipients in rural counties. Also, less than 13 percent of recipients who were receiving TANF in March 1997 were still receiving TANF in July 2000.

The study, entitled Welfare Reform: The Experience of Rural Pennsylvania, did not attempt to examine why there are fewer cases, but how the families that have been touched by welfare are doing socio-economically. The study also looked to document families' perceptions of the challenges and barriers to leaving TANF.

Current and former recipients
The study included two groups: those that were still receiving benefits in July 2000, called Currents, and those who no longer received benefits, called Formers. The state Department of Public Welfare supplied the list of both Currents and Formers in rural counties, and from these lists, the researchers drew a random sample of 330 Currents and 800 Formers. Ultimately, 155 Currents (46 percent response rate) and 286 Formers (34 percent response rate) were interviewed by phone.

What the researchers found most striking about the Currents is that most were not participating in any welfare-to-work programs. Approximately 60 percent of all Currents were not currently employed or involved in any program activity. Six percent were involved in a program activity less than 20 hours per week. Therefore, among the Currents, only about 33 percent were actually involved in an activity over 20 hours per week.

In all, 54 respondents (34 percent) reported having a paid job. Of these, 38 percent worked more than 35 hours per week, while 10 percent worked less than 20 hours. The median wage for Currents was $6 per hour.

Thirty-one percent identified health and/or disability problems for their lack of participation.

Another important finding is that about half of the Currents temporarily stopped receiving TANF for more than a month between March 1997 and July 2000. About 75 percent of those who temporarily stopped receiving benefits did so for employment-related reasons, such as a new job, a spouse's job, or an increase in pay or hours worked.

Demographically, most of the Current houses were headed by one adult (77 percent) and had an average of 2.4 children under 18. Currents had low education levels with 30 percent having no high school degree and only 4 percent holding a college degree. About 50 percent reported having more than five years prior work experience and 20 percent reported having a year or less experience.

The key for the Formers' ability to stop receiving TANF benefits appeared to be employment and support from another adult in the household. About 74 percent of Formers were employed, but only 43 percent were employed full-time. Their average wage was $7.37 or $7.60 for full-time workers. Fifty percent made less than $6.85 and only 18 percent of all Formers had jobs paying more than $2 over the minimum wage. In addition, wages were for the most part stagnant. Formers who had not received TANF for more than three years were making only 13 percent more than in their first job after leaving TANF. However, 63 percent were satisfied with their employment situation and 44 percent felt their prospect for advancement was good.

Caseworkers, supervisors surveyed
In addition to surveying current and former recipients, the researchers surveyed providers, including caseworkers, supervisors and executive directors, to determine their perceptions of the barriers to self-sufficiency and employment for TANF recipients. This portion of the survey included both urban and rural counties to help determine how rural counties differ from urban counties. The 30 most rural counties and the 10 most urban counties were used in the analysis.

Out of the randomly selected 520 providers surveyed, about 80 percent, or 420, responded. However, 166 did not work with TANF recipients and were excluded from the analysis. In all, 254 providers completed the mail survey.

Providers cited a number of factors that hampered the ability of both former and current recipients to be more self-sufficient, including the lack of transportation, motivation and job skills, low paying jobs, and mental health or substance abuse problems. Variations between rural and urban respondents were noted in the areas of lack of transportation (greater in rural areas) and substance abuse and domestic violence problems (greater in urban areas). Overall, executive directors were more likely than caseworkers to see transportation, domestic violence and personal or family medical problems as major barriers and they were less likely to view lack of motivation as a barrier.

More than 50 percent of rural respondents thought that more transportation and more good jobs were needed. Urban respondents were more concerned with smaller caseloads to improve services.

A variety of reasons were given for why former recipients move back on to TANF. The most frequent responses focused on personal qualities such as lack of effective coping skills, mental health, or substance abuse problems, and lack of job skills.
Ninety percent of the respondents felt that TANF reforms were at least somewhat successful. In addition, more than 70 percent of respondents thought that TANF had succeeded in getting recipients jobs and providing resources necessary for employment.

About 50 percent believed TANF had succeeded in getting recipients into training programs and reducing caseloads.

In addition to the survey results, the researchers also offer recommendations on further improving the TANF program based on their research findings.

Want more info?
For a copy of the report, Welfare Reform: The Experience of Rural Pennsylvania, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email


Chairman's Message
"Look it up in the dictionary" is a parent's typical response when asked about the meaning of a word. Unfortunately, Webster's has to compete with a number of other sources when it comes to defining rural. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania estimates there are no less than seven definitions of the word used throughout the United States.

So how do we define rural? The Center's designation is based on the U.S. Census Bureau's definition. And, as odd as it may seem, the Census Bureau's definition of rural is based on the way it defines urban. Confused? You're not alone. But, when analyzing the Census Bureau's data, this definition helps us when applying their figures to our commonwealth's diverse regions and helps us to develop a better picture of Pennsylvania's rural areas.

Later this summer, the Census Bureau will release the rural/urban information from Census 2000. It will be interesting to see how the new definitions will affect the rural outlook of our state. And we're looking for your input in this analysis.

To get your feedback, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will host a series of discussions around the state to gather input to more accurately determine a system of applying rural and urban designations. We want to hear from other data users. We will enlist your help in measuring these designations and analyzing whether they show a true picture of the state's rural areas.

We will be announcing the dates, times and locations of the sessions on our website at and in future issues of Rural Perspectives. If you'd like to participate and want to be included in any upcoming mailings, contact the Center at the phone number or email address listed at right.

Information provided by the Census Bureau has helped the Center for Rural Pennsylvania provide a statistical look at many aspects of rural life in our commonwealth. This data has helped us look at women- and minority-owned businesses in rural areas, and indicates to us how these businesses are faring and how they are affecting the economy in rural areas. Read about it on page 5. Then turn to the next page and find an article that offers insights about rural municipalities, and how they vary in size - from the very small to the very large.

I'll wrap up by encouraging you to read our feature story that highlights the study released by Dr. Niel Brasher of Shippensburg University that looked at welfare reform and its impact on rural Pennsylvanians. The study specifically looked at the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, those who are off the system and those who are still on. It also surveyed those who are charged with administering the benefits programs and providing services. This study gives us a measured review of the effects the 1997 changes to this welfare program had on our commonwealth's recipients.

Finally, thank you for your patience as the Center gets back to normal after the fire that broke out in our office building in April. Fortunately, our floor received only minimal damage, and no one was hurt. This incident has given us a better appreciation for the 21st Century technology that allowed staff to access files from remote locations while our building was closed. It never ceases to amaze me.

Have an enjoyable summer.

Representative Sheila Miller


Bet You Can't Use Just One: Settling on a Definition of Rural
Settling on one definition of rural may be as difficult as eating just one potato chip. Throughout the United States, the definitions of rural among government entities, whether local, state or federal, and other organizations often vary, sometimes widely.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, for example, bases its rural designations on the U.S. Census Bureau's definition. According to this definition, rural is all territory, population, and housing units that are not urban. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, it would be if only the definition of "urban" were just as simple.

With the forthcoming release of rural/urban information from Census 2000, government offices and data users are holding their breath and wondering how the new definitions will change the rural outlook of the state.

Areas and clusters
On March 15, 2002, the Census Bureau released the finalized 2000 definitions of urban areas, which included substantial changes to the former definitions, and which now consist of two components: urbanized areas (UAs) and urban clusters (UCs).

An urbanized area consists of contiguous, densely settled Census block groups and Census blocks that meet minimum population density requirements and adjacent densely settled Census blocks. The entire area must encompass a population of at least 50,000 people.

Urban clusters are the same but on a smaller scale. A cluster also consists of contiguous, densely settled Census block groups and Census blocks that meet minimum population density requirements and adjacent densely settled Census blocks. Clusters, however, encompass a population of at least 2,500 people but fewer than 50,000 people.

The minimum population density for either urban area is essentially an initial core made up of blocks/block groups with a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile. Added to this core are adjacent blocks/block groups with a population density of at least 500 people per square mile.

All territory, population, and housing units in either type of urban area are considered urban, and the remainder is rural.

Staying outside the lines
With the release of the socio-economic data due out late this summer, the Census Bureau will publish urban and rural information for every Census geography. This means that individuals will be able to look up what percentage of any defined area is urban and what percentage is rural.

Remember that since urban areas do not necessarily follow municipal or other legal or statistical boundaries, geographic entities, such as Census tracts, counties, metropolitan areas, and the area outside metropolitan areas, will often contain both urban and rural territory, population, and housing units.

Because many geographic entities include both urban and rural parts, after the 1990 Census, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania created a system of designating an entire geographic entity, like a county or municipality, as rural or urban. Currently, that criteria states that if more than 50 percent of the population is rural, according to the Census, the area is considered rural. Likewise, if more than 50 percent is urban, it is called urban.

Based on these criteria and the 1990 Census data, nearly 72 percent of Pennsylvania's municipalities are considered rural, as well as 42 of its 67 counties. Now that the Census Bureau's rural and urban definitions are changing, so may the Center's manner of designating a geographic entity.

In the coming months, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will host a series of discussions around the state to gather input from data users to most accurately determine a system of applying rural and urban designations. The measures for such designations will be simple and will attempt to show a true picture of the state's rural areas. Criteria may include total population, population density, metro/non-metro status and other factors.

The Center will announce the dates, times and locations of the sessions on its website at, and in upcoming issues of Rural Perspectives.

For more information about rural/urban definitions from the Census Bureau, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, or refer to the Federal Register notice, which can be accessed through the Census Bureau's website at

New Mapping Criteria
Technological advancements in the field of geographic information systems (GIS) over the last 10 years will allow the Census Bureau to automate the entire urban and rural delineation for the first time in Census Bureau history. This new mapping capability will make it easier for users to view specific areas in a community that are urban or rural.

This map layer file is expected to become available as a Census TIGER (or Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system) line file in April.

Changes to 1990 Definitions
The 2000 Census criteria for urban areas differ in a number of important ways from the 1990 definitions including:

Other Census Definitions


A Look At Women and Minority-Owned Businesses
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's recently released 1997 Economic Census files on Women- and Minority-Owned Businesses, more than 180,000 total firms were located in the commonwealth's predominantly rural counties that year. This number accounted for about 20 percent of the state's total.

A firm is a business organization or entity consisting of one domestic establishment (location) or more under common ownership or control. All establishments of subsidiary firms are included as part of the owning or controlling firm.

Exact numbers of minority- and women-owned firms are not available because data is only collected for each group in counties that have at least 100 firms owned by that group.

However, the Center estimated that about 25 percent of rural Pennsylvania firms are women-owned and about 3 percent or 5,000 firms are minority-owned. The percentage of women-owned firms in rural areas coincides with the percentage for the state overall, but the minority-owned percentage is smaller than the state's 6 percent.

In six counties, which are all rural, 30 percent or more of the total firms are women-owned. The counties are Northumberland (36 percent), Montour, Wyoming, Bedford, Potter, and Fulton (each at 30 percent). In 10 counties, again all rural, less than 20 percent of the firms are women-owned. Only Forest and Sullivan counties have fewer than 100 such firms.

While women-owned businesses account for one-quarter of the number of firms statewide, they take in only about 4 percent of the sales/receipts. Rural Pennsylvania women fare somewhat better - their firms take in about 15 percent of the sales/receipts.

Minority-owned businesses play a less significant but increasing role in rural Pennsylvania. In this analysis, the four minority categories are: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Hispanic. More than half of the state's mostly rural counties had fewer than 100 minority-owned businesses in 1997. In three rural counties, however, 5 percent or more of the businesses were minority owned. These were Monroe (8 percent), Greene (7 percent), and Wayne (5 percent).

In 1992, the year of the previous Economic Census, nearly 90 percent of Pennsylvania's rural counties had fewer than 100 minority-owned firms. Although some definitional changes have occurred since the 1992 Economic Census, the current numbers still represent an increasing diversity in business ownership since only about 2,000 rural firms were minority-owned in 1992.


Update Census 2000: SF3 Profiles to be Released
Now that all of the Census 2000 "short form" (SF1 and SF2) general population and housing data has been released, it's time for the "long form" (SF3) socio-economic and detailed housing information to be released.
The first release of this new data is in the form of three profiles, which are available at the national, state, county, and municipal levels of geography. The profiles are:

1) Table DP-2, which contains the following social characteristics:
o Education o Marital status o Grandparents as caregivers o Veteran status o Disability status o Migration o Place of birth o Language spoken at home o Ancestry

2) Table DP-3, which contains the following economic characteristics:
o Employment status o Commuting o Occupation o Industry o Class of worker o Income o Poverty

3) Table DP-3, which contains the following housing characteristics:
o Units in structure o Year built o Number of rooms o Year householder moved in
o Vehicles available o Heating fuel type o Amenities o Occupants per room o Value Mortgage status and monthly costs o Gross rent

This format is ideal for those who want to find out all about their community. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, in its role as an affiliate of the Census Bureau's State Data Center Program, will also provide the information in formats suitable for comparison among geographies.

The next release we'll be looking for is the complete socio-economic sample data (the SF3 file) due out between June and September 2002.

For more Census 2000 information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's website at or call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555.


Many, Few, Large, Small - Pennsylvania Has Them All
Census 2000 data is showing that Pennsylvania's 2,567 municipalities vary enormously in all aspects. One outstanding difference is size. Most of the commonwealth's municipalities are small in area. The smallest is St. Clairsville Borough in Bedford County at 0.03 square miles or just 20 acres. In all, 569 municipalities, 22 percent of the total, are less than one square mile in size. Another 23 percent are between one and 10 square miles.

At the other end of the spectrum is the largest municipality in the commonwealth: Shippen Township in Cameron County at more than 157 square miles. Only four other municipalities, Rush Township in Centre County, Jones and Benezette townships in Elk County, and the City of Philadelphia are more than 100 square miles.

The smaller municipalities are most often very densely populated. The most densely populated municipality is Millbourne Borough in Delaware County with 13,749 people per square mile. Nine other places have densities of more than 10,000 people per square mile including one township, Upper Darby in Delaware County, and the City of Philadelphia. The most sparsely populated is East Fork Township in Potter County with only 0.27 persons per square mile. Just five other municipalities have less than one person per square mile.

Land area is not the only measure of size. Sometimes size is determined by population, in which case the smallest municipality would be East Fork Township, Potter County. The reason why that township is so sparsely populated, as noted above, is that there are only 14 residents. Five other places also have fewer than 25 inhabitants. The four largest places by population are, of course, cities.


The Name Game
What's in a name? Among Pennsylvania's 2,567 boroughs, townships, cities and town, what's in their names is many similarities, especially in the endings. Pennsylvania's 12 million residents live in the name-ending land of "woods," "fields," "burgs," "boros," "hills," "ports," "fords," "villes," and "cities," just to name a few.

For instance, there are roughly 50,000 residents living in 22 municipalities ending in "wood." Among these locations are the boroughs of Brentwood, Norwood, Rockwood, Lockwood, Burnwood and Atwood. Clearly outnumbering the residents who live in the "woods," however, are the 312,070 people who live in 62 municipalities ending in "field." These areas include such noted townships as Hempfield, Plainfield, Fallowfield, Overfield, Deerfield and Clearfield.

Eleven municipalities, populated with a total of 58,000 people, end their names with "boro," and include such places as Hatboro, Wellsboro, Stoneboro and Gouldsboro. "Burg" is a popular suffix in 82 municipalities, home to more than 644,000 people, and includes Heidelburg, Schells-burg, Hamburg, Mechanicsburg, Millersburg, and Berrysburg.

Approximately 145,000 people live in the 31 locations ending with "hill," while 117,445 residents in 37 municipalities sign off with "port."
There are 317,000 people who live in 122 locations that end in "ville," which originates from French and means "country house or farm," including the municipalities of Meadville, Titusville, Curwensville, Morrisville, Schwenksville and Le Raysville.
Automobile enthusiasts might be happy to learn that 211,000 people live in the 41 municipalities that end in "ford," including the townships and boroughs of Oxford, Guilford, Hereford, Milford, Bedford and Telford.

About 50,000 people live in municipalities that, although they contain "city" in their name, are not incorporated as cities. These non-city cities include Dickson City, Mahanoy City, Homer City, Broad Top City and Karns City. Strangely enough, the average population of locations ending in "town" is 6,609, which is more than the average population of the places that are called cities but aren't cities. Their average population is 2,921.

The search for similar endings leads us, finally, to the nearly 113,000 people who reside in one of the 26 municipalities that end in "bury." Among these locales are four Shrewburys, four Sadburys, two Salisburys, and two Sunburys.


Did you know . . .