The Urban-Rural Divide: There Has to Be a Better Way to Write About the Country

Want to close America’s rural-urban divide?
Washington Post, February 20, 2019

As middle- and low-wage jobs in the American heartland disintegrate further, the national anger and polarization fueled by an urban-rural divide will only deepen.
Axios Future, February 20, 2019

Big city journalists like to divide the country into “urban,” meaning the big cities where much of journalism is now created, and “rural,” which means farm country.

The real divide is between big cities and the many hundreds of cities with populations, say, between 20,000 and 200,000. My home state of Wisconsin is full of such medium-sized cities, as is Michigan, where I worked as a journalist.

These people are not a bunch of out-of-touch farmers, as the urban-rural divide often seems to suggest.

I keep in touch with people in my hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, population 75,000. There is nothing rural about them. Most of my high school classmates stayed in Appleton or in nearby communities because they like living there, staying close to brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents. They had no interest in going to Chicago, or any other big city, for a higher-paying job. Staying near family was more important than money or job titles.

When reading stories about the urban-rural divide, almost always written by those living in big cities, I can’t help but feel they have an edge of contempt for those living in “rural” areas who weren’t smart or ambitious enough to have gone “urban.”



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