A 2021 paper called "Hollowed out Heartland, USA" details how financial and political elites have taken control of assets in rural America, from banks and newspapers to hospitals and homes. That has contributed heavily to rural decline, held rural America back from meaningful advancement, and helped usher in the increasing popularity of authoritarian populist politicians. The paper's author, Hunter College anthropology professor Marc Edelman, sat down with Olivia Weeks from The Daily Yonder to discuss about the paper's implications.

For instance, the siphoning of rural wealth and assets to urban shareholders has "intensified long-standing American ideas about self-reliance and hard work," Edelman told Weeks. "It fueled resentment of cosmopolitan urbanites, who don’t work with their hands, don’t have 'real' skills, and somehow seem to make money, nonetheless. It also vitiated any working-class consciousness that might have been there when people worked in factories and belonged to unions."

Edelman refers to many rural communities (and low-income neighborhoods in large cities) as "sacrifice zones," which he says means places "where capital came in, extracted wealth, and then left people worse off than they were before. The more dramatic examples include communities where uranium tailings or other toxic waste surround abandoned mines, where fracking for gas contaminated drinking water, the 'cancer alley' around the refineries and chemical plants of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, or the CAFOs — concentrated animal feeding operations – where ponds of hog or cattle manure cause horrendous rural air pollution and health problems."

Read the full article about rural communities by Heather Chapman at The Rural Blog.