Rural poverty an ignored problem

Poverty rates are actually worse in rural areas than urban or suburban areas.

Forty years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty. Although poverty rates have decreased, the problem of poverty is still a consistent one. The problem of poverty and economic disparity in rural areas is rarely addressed. The economic problems facing rural Minnesota must be acknowledged, and innovative solutions must be found.

We are dealing with a number of issues here. First there is the wage gap between rural Minnesota and urban Minnesota.

Barbara Ronningen, of the state’s demographer’s office, said the per-capita earnings of greater Minnesota were more than $11,500 less than the per-capita earnings in the seven-county Twin Cities area. Combined with the fact that the real value of Minnesota minimum wage has fallen over the last three decades, from just less than $9 to a little more than $5 an hour, presents a concern when costs continue to rise.

Poverty rates are actually worse in rural areas than urban or suburban areas. Fourteen percent of the rural population in the United States lives in poverty compared to 11 percent of the urban and suburban areas. Twenty percent of rural children are poor, compared to 15 percent of urban children.

The economic disparity between urban and rural areas and rural poverty rates must be addressed. In Minnesota, traditional agricultural and other economic opportunities, such as mining in the northern part of the state, have withered. We must take strides now to prevent widespread destitution and desolation.

Especially with the advent of decentralized businesses aided by technology, there are many possibilities for revitalization. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s tax-free zones must be looked at closer, but they at least provide a beginning to more innovative solutions in addressing the problems of rural areas. Minnesota can, and must, do more.