How Well Have Rural and Small Metropolitan Labor Markets Absorbed Welfare Recipients?. Barriers to employment


Rural workers may face greater barriers to employment than urban workers. These include the following:

  • Child Care. Rural areas have fewer child care slots than urban areas and workers must travel greater distances from home to obtain child care. As a result, rural families depend more on child care by relatives and friends.(28)
  • Transportation. Public transportation is less available in rural areas and distances traveled between home and work are also longer in rural areas. Nationally, 40 percent of all rural residents live in areas with no form of public transportation.(29) Thus, access to personal transportation is critical.
  • Education and Training Services. To achieve self-sufficiency, welfare recipients may need access to additional education and training services that are more readily available in urban areas. In addition, they may not have the same level of access to job training centers.



(21)Current Population Survey 1998, US Census Bureau. These estimates are calculated from the number of respondents age 15 to 65 who indicated they received welfare in 1997.

(22)Unless otherwise noted, we used the term rural to mean nonmetropolitan, for simplicity, although these are not synonymous. The Office of Management and Budget defines nonmetropolitan counties as being outside the boundaries of metro areas and having no cities with as many as 50,000 residents. Metropolitan areas contain (1) core counties with one or more central cities of at least 50,000 residents or with a Census Bureau-defined urbanized area (and a total metro area population of 100,000 or more), and (2) fringe counties that are economically tied to the core counties. According to official federal definitions, rural areas comprise places (incorporated or unincorporated) with fewer than 2,500 residents and open territory. Urban areas comprise larger places and densely settled areas around them.

(23) This survey integrated the Occupational Compensation Survey Program (OCSP) with the Employment Cost Index and the Employee Benefit Survey. Results are reported in: U.S. Department of Labor (1999a). When it Comes to Pay, Does Location Matter?, Compensation and Working Conditions Online. Summer 2000, Vol 5, No. 2.

(24) U.S. Department of Commerce (2000). Money Income in the United States: 1999. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, September.

(25) Parker, Timothy (1995). Understanding Rural America. Agriculture Information BulletinNo. 710. Washington, DC: USDA.

(26) Hamrick, Karen S. (1997). Rural Labor Markets Often Lead Urban Markets in Recessions and Expansions. Rural Development Perspectives, vol. 12, no. 3. Washington, DC: USDA.

(27) Marks, E., S. Dewees, T. Ouellette, R. Koralek (1999). Rural Welfare to Work Strategies: Research Synthesis. Macro International, Inc. Washington, DC.

(28) Rural Policy Research Institute (1999). Rural America and Welfare Reform: An Overview Assessment. University of Missouri, Columbia, MO.

(29) Dewees, S. (1998). The Drive to Work: Transportation Issues and Welfare Reform in Rural Areas. Southern Rural Development Center. Mississippi State, MS.