How Well Have Rural and Small Metropolitan Labor Markets Absorbed Welfare Recipients?. Chapter 2: Rural And Small Metropolitan Labor Markets

04/01/2001

As discussed in Chapter 1, most studies that have measured the impact of welfare reform on labor markets have focused on urban areas, and little is known about the effect on rural areas. This is because data are more readily available for large urban areas and a larger share of welfare recipients live in metropolitan areas (81 percent in 1997).(21) However, substantial differences exist between urban and rural labor markets in terms of the economic opportunities, the characteristics of the workforce, and the barriers to employment, suggesting that findings from urban studies might not readily apply to rural areas.

States emphasis on moving welfare recipients into jobs quickly might prove more difficult in rural settings for several reasons. First, there is some evidence that rural areas offer fewer economic opportunities. Second, individuals living in rural areas have lower education levels, on average, increasing the challenges for finding employment. Finally, job search, as well as educational, childcare, and transportation services, may be less available in rural areas to help welfare recipients find employment, obtain skills required for employment, and accept employment. This chapter discusses these obstacles in more detail.