The romanticism and the realism of rural life were both in evidence in a recent study of rural, suburban and urban residents' perceptions of rural America. The study is one of a series to be done on rural America by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The in-depth, qualitative study, conducted in eight diverse regions across the country by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., found that:

  • Rural life represents traditional American values, but is behind the times.

  • Rural life is more relaxed and slower than city life, but harder and more grueling.

  • Rural life is friendly, but intolerant of outsiders and difference.

  • Rural life is richer in community life, but epitomized by individuals struggling independently to make ends meet.

“Overall we found that respondents hold overwhelmingly positive views of rural life,” says Anna Greenberg, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

“But respondents' admiration of rural Americans and romanticization of rural life is tempered by their understanding that rural Americans face serious economic hardships and threats to their way of life,” she says.

Lack of financial resources and other opportunities topped respondents' lists of problems facing rural America. The most common response to the question “What problems do you think rural America faces?” was lack of money and poverty (19%), overdevelopment/sprawl (17%), price of crops (14%), droughts/weather (11%) and lack of opportunities (11%). Almost half, 46%, of rural respondents indicated they have considered moving, primarily because of low pay and sparse opportunities for advancement.