A survey of local governments' economic development strategies in declining rural American areas
Cutrumbes, Abigail Barbara
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The economic decline of many rural American towns in recent decades has garnered much attention and research. Most of this research, however, has taken a prescriptive approach to policy and has focused mainly on making recommendations for how to “fix” rural America. No research has systematically looked at what declining rural American areas are already doing to support their local economies and attempt to reverse economic decline. This study explores 55 towns and counties, 50 through their planning documents and five through a combination of planning documents and in-depth informational interviews, to determine how local governments are responding to economic decline. This analysis reveals that there is a very wide variety in both types of response and the level of response. While some areas are doing very little to address economic decline, other areas are implementing innovative and intensive approaches to build more robust and diversified economies. Overall, the implication of this research is that both scholars and policymakers should be careful to understand local contexts before making prescriptive policy approaches.