US Economy

Restoring Economic Opportunity for “The People Left Behind”: Employment Strategies for Rural America

February 4, 2019  • James P. Ziliak


James P. Ziliak, Gatton Endowed Chair in Microeconomics, Gatton College of Business and Economics and the Center for Poverty Research, University of Kentucky

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Based on several leading economic indicators, most notably rates of employment in the labor force among less skilled men, residents of rural America are much further behind their urban counterparts today than they were fifty years ago. In order to stimulate employment in rural areas, I propose a two-fold strategy of bringing “people to jobs” and “jobs to people,” an approach that combines people-based and place-based policies. The people-based policies include relocation assistance payments for those willing to make a permanent move to a new job, as well as a short- term credit for commuting expenses tied to a new job without residential relocation. The place-based programs include a major one-time investment in rural broadband, a recurring program of loans and grants to enhance entrepreneurship and small business development, and a federal jobs program to revitalize rural infrastructure and amenities.