Addressing the Financial Challenges Facing Rural Americans
As the Federal Reserve prepares to set interest rates at the end of January 2023, it will be guided by one key bit of data: the U.S. inflation rate. However, this stat fails to recognize a large portion of the population – rural America. The overall inflation rate, along with core inflation, is seen as key to knowing whether the economy is heating up too fast, and guided the Fed as it imposed several large 0.75 percentage point interest rate increases in 2022 in an effort to reduce inflation back to the Fed target of around 2%.
Demographically, rural counties trend older, and older people spend more on health insurance and medical services. Additionally, poorer-quality housing leaves rural homeowners and renters vulnerable to rising heating and cooling costs, as well as additional maintenance costs. Though fuel costs can be volatile, periods of high energy prices are likely to disproportionately affect rural residents given the necessity and greater distances of driving.
People living outside of America’s cities represent 14% of the U.S. population, or around 46 million people. Urban dwellers are likely to experience different economic strains and have different spending patterns than those living in rural areas. With the cost of dining at home rising faster than the cost of eating out, and the average inflation rate currently sitting at 6.5%, 44.1% of adults are struggling to pay for household expenses.
“High inflation stings for everyone, but it’s especially painful for middle-income American families,” said Amy Crews Cutts, economic advisor at Primerica and one of the authors of the research report. The middle-market is now stretching their savings to cope with the fastest rate of price increase seen in a generation. Nevertheless, middle-income households are still confident about the future and have demonstrated a remarkable strength in the midst of economic challenges.
It is clear that rural Americans are facing financial challenges that are not being addressed by the consumer price index. As the cost of living continues to rise, it is essential that policymakers recognize and address the unique needs of rural Americans, or else risk leaving them further behind.
0. “Rural Americans aren't included in inflation figures. And for them, the cost of living may be rising faster” Phys.org, 30 Jan. 2023, https://phys.org/news/2023-01-rural-americans-inflation-figures-faster.html
1. “Inflation in Rural Areas Much Higher Than in Cities” The Epoch Times, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.theepochtimes.com/inflation-in-rural-areas-much-higher-than-in-cities_5020286.html
2. “Rural Americans aren't included in inflation figures – and for them, cost of living rises faster – The Current” The Current GA, 27 Jan. 2023, https://thecurrentga.org/2023/01/27/rural-americans-arent-included-in-inflation-figures-and-for-them-cost-of-living-rises-faster
3. “Rural Americans Aren't Included In Inflation Figures And Fo…” MENAFN.COM, 27 Jan. 2023, https://menafn.com/1105486116/Rural-Americans-Arent-Included-In-Inflation-Figures-And-For-Them-The-Cost-Of-Living-May-Be-Rising-Faster
4. “10 states where inflation is hitting the hardest | Interests | kpvi.com” KPVI News 6, 1 Feb. 2023, https://www.kpvi.com/interests/10-states-where-inflation-is-hitting-the-hardest/collection_4557c209-7263-57a5-8968-e7c7167c8128.html
5. “Special Report: Middle-Income Families Resilient Amid High Inflation, Economic Uncertainty – Primerica (N” Benzinga, 3 Feb. 2023, https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/23/02/b30701754/special-report-middle-income-families-resilient-amid-high-inflation-economic-uncertainty
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