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Rural Matters

Jun 12, 2020

This riveting episode is the second in our four-part series on rural poverty and issues impacting the 2020 elections presented this month in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Michelle chats with several graduate students at the University of Michigan who worked with the university’s Poverty Solutions program and saw first-hand, on the ground, what poverty looks like in rural America: Lanora Johnson, whose research focuses on gender inequality and rural poverty in Central Appalachia; Jasmine Simington, whose research explores how housing policies shape racialized spatial inequality; and Meg Duffy, a researcher  at Poverty Solutions who primarily works on a mixed methods study called Understanding Communities of Deep Disadvantage. Jasmine describes how the project holistically ranked the most disadvantaged counties and cities in the United States and notes those locations were spatially clustered in Appalachia, the rural Southeast, deep South, border towns in Texas, and tribal lands, Poverty Solutions researchers went on site visits to several of these counties and were embedded in these communities for a couple of months. Meg, was embedded in both Marion County, S.C. whose residents are mostly black and Clay County, Ky., whose population is mostly white. There were similar challenges in both counties, including access to transportation and jobs, but also certain similarities, such as volunteerism and resiliency. Lanora discusses a “true hero,” Mayor Hopkins, whose small town was devastated by flooding, and how community members had to deal with the cleanup and how residents still are struggling to live in a community whose homes often still smell from mold. The bottom line, she explains, is that, in terms of FEMA support, there was a notable disparity between assistance provided to white communities compared to those given to black communities. This episode truly paints a vivid portrait of several under-resourced communities in the United States and the challenges residents in those communities face every day. This episode is sponsored by Community Hospital Corporation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,