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Hollowing out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for Americaby Patrick Carr
Synopses & Reviews
Watch the book trailer for Hollowing Out the MiddleIn 2001, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation, sociologists Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas moved to Iowa to understand the rural brain drain and the exodus of young people from America’s countryside. Articles and books—notably Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class—celebrate the migration of highly productive and creative workers to key cities. But what happens to the towns that they desert, and to the people who are left behind?
To answer that question, Carr and Kefalas moved to "Ellis," a small town of two thousand. Ellis is typical of many places struggling to survive, and Iowa is typical of many states in the Heartland, aging rapidly. One reason is that many small towns simply aren’t regenerating, but another is that its educated young people are leaving in droves.
In Ellis, Carr and Kefalas met the working-class "stayers," trying to survive in the region’s dying agro-industrial economy; the high-achieving and college-bound "achievers," who often leave for good; the "seekers" who head off to war to see what the world beyond offers; and the "returners," who eventually circle back to their hometowns. What surprised Carr and Kefalas most, was that adults in the community were playing a pivotal part in the town’s decline by pushing the best and brightest young people to leave, and by underinvesting in those who choose to stay—even though these young people are their best chance for a future.
The emptying out of small towns is a national concern, but there are strategies for arresting the process and creating sustainable, thriving communities. Hollowing Out the Middle is a wake-up call we cannot afford to ignore—not only because sixty million Americans still live in rural communities and small towns, but because our nation’s economic health and future is tied to the Heartland.
In 2001, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation, sociologists Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas moved to Iowa to understand the rural brain drain and the exodus of young people from America'scountryside. They met and followed working-class stayers; ambitious and college-bound achievers; seekers, who head off to war to see what the world beyondoffers; and returners, who eventually circle back to their hometowns. What surprised them most was that adults in the community were playing a pivotal part in the town's decline by pushingthe best and brightest young people to leave.
In a timely, new afterword, Carr and Kefalas address the question so what can be done to save our communities? They profile the effortsof dedicated community leaders actively resisting the hollowing out of Middle America. These individuals have creatively engaged small town youth--stayers and returners, seekers and achievers--and haveimplemented a variety of programs to combat the rural brain drain. These stories of civic engagement will certainly inspire and encourage readers struggling to defend theircommunities.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Patrick Carr is associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the author of Clean Streets.
Maria Kefalas held positions at the Brookings Institution, the University of Pennsylvania, and Barnard College before joining the faculty of Saint Joseph’s University, where she is associate professor in the Department of Sociology. She is the author of Working Class Heroes and Promises I Can Keep.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The heartland and the rural youth exodus — The achievers — The stayers — The seekers — The returners — Conclusion: What can be done to save small towns?
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