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Unread 07-18-2008, 01:00 PM
 
Location: The better side of the Mason-Dixon Line
4,418 posts, read 6,382,788 times
Reputation: 2031
Default Do most Americans live in rural areas/small towns?

I've lived most of my life in a suburban area in Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. Being on the East Coast near a major city I sometimes get the feeling that its not the "real America" and that what I see everyday is not how most people in the U.S. live and I sometimes feel out of touch with the "reality" for most people. I live in a suburb that is quickly becoming a major city as more and more high-density places are built. But many outlying regions in my county are still pretty rural though there are subdivisions spreading outward and there are places with suburban type developments interspersed by farmland. Many suburbs are dominated by chain stores, fast food joints and franchise restaurants and there are few small-town type independent businesses. Most of the traveling I've done is to tourist destinations and I don't think I've really seen ordinary life out in America. Sometimes "America" feels like a foreign country to me as a minority born to immigrant parents and having lived on the East Coast for most of my life. Where I lived before I was 7, New Orleans, always has that mythical aura of a laid-back, down home paradise for me since we haven't been back ever since we moved to Maryland. Places like Kansas City, Charleston, Amarillo, Lubbock, or Sioux Falls also conjures up this mythical, utopian image of the all-American.

The Census Bureau designates something like 70% of Americans as living in "urban" areas which I think refers to any settlement with 5000 people or more, or in a suburban county. Here in the DC area, many counties in MD, VA, and one in WV are designated as part of metropolitan DC but many of these counties are predominantly rural and are included because some people commute to the city and to some closer in booming suburbs. Frederick COunty, MD for example feels mostly rural and agricultural with small towns. In nearby Baltimore the same is true with very rural areas included as part of Baltimore's metropolitan area. So I think teh Census description can be very misleading and inaccurate.

So how does the "typical American" live today in the 21st century? Is the world you see on CMT and hear about on country radio still reflective of the lifestyles and realities for most of the country? My local country station bills the genre as telling "real storeis about real people" and country being "America's music". A lot of the music deals with picture-perfect small towns that seem like paradise and sometimes about the "redneck" (as opposed to "trailer trash" which I believe is an offensive and elitist term) lifestyle. I've read articles about journalists in foreign countries who leave Beijing and Moscow to see "the real China or the real Russia" of how most people in those countries live? Is the same true of the U.S.?
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Unread 07-18-2008, 01:13 PM
 
Location: Oak Park, IL
4,941 posts, read 7,232,156 times
Reputation: 2899
That's crap. People in NYC, or Boston, Chicago aren't REAL? Are we somehow less important that people living in the countryside? This mythical utopian countryside is exactly that, a myth.
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Unread 07-18-2008, 02:04 PM
 
Location: Sioux Falls
19 posts, read 72,348 times
Reputation: 16
you've obviously never been there then
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Unread 07-18-2008, 02:06 PM
j33
 
4,625 posts, read 9,020,845 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sukwoo View Post
That's crap. People in NYC, or Boston, Chicago aren't REAL? Are we somehow less important that people living in the countryside? This mythical utopian countryside is exactly that, a myth.
Thank you. I get constantly annoyed by this mythical notion of a 'real america' that exists outside of urban areas. I come from a long line of people who preferred cities (starting from when my ancestors immigrated to Brooklyn from Europe in the 1800's and in the case of my grandfather's side of the family, didn't leave even get beyond NYC until WWII), and we are just as much part of the fabric of this country as someone who lives on a ranch in Wyoming.
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Unread 07-18-2008, 02:30 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,163 posts, read 19,494,564 times
Reputation: 16061
I have to agree that "real Americans" can live in either rural OR urban areas. One is not better than the other at all. That being said though, this remark "This mythical utopian countryside is exactly that, a myth." is dead wrong. It is out here, I live it every single day. A nice place where people watch out for each other, where neighbors wave as you go by, where there is little reason to lock your doors either when you leave for the day or at night. Where kids ride their bikes downtown for a game of baseball, or a slushy and you don't have to worry yourself sick over them. If you pull off the side of the road for a cellphone call, you have to convince everybody that drives by you DON'T need a hand or a lift to town. The storybook towns and rural neighborhoods ARE out here, all over the Country. Mayberry RFD towns are still around, some are thriving, some are struggling; but make no mistake about it, those that choose to live out here think it is a utopia compared to "city" life.

I have been through this great Country from North to South, East to West and have seen some great places. Some large, some tiny; and the number one thing about all the great places I have been to are the people who live there regardless the size of community they live in.
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Unread 07-18-2008, 03:11 PM
 
Location: Oak Park, IL
4,941 posts, read 7,232,156 times
Reputation: 2899
I'm sure there are some wonderful rural parts of America. I've seen them. There are also a lot of very nice, wonderful urban areas too. I know, I live in one. I should also point out that there are some rural hell holes filled with unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime.

My point is that I get very annoyed when the archetype of "REAL AMERICA" is described as rural, white, NASCAR-types who are somehow morally superior to us slick city folk.
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Unread 07-18-2008, 03:23 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,163 posts, read 19,494,564 times
Reputation: 16061
Quote:
Originally Posted by sukwoo View Post
I'm sure there are some wonderful rural parts of America. I've seen them. There are also a lot of very nice, wonderful urban areas too. I know, I live in one. I should also point out that there are some rural hell holes filled with unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime.

My point is that I get very annoyed when the archetype of "REAL AMERICA" is described as rural, white, NASCAR-types who are somehow morally superior to us slick city folk.
I have seen those areas as well, both rural and urban. What you said though was that the rural utopian countryside was a myth. I merely pointed out that it is NOT a myth, but it is out there. If we were talking about the crappy side of rural, I would have been able to agree with that as well. I was responding to your false statement. I even said I have seen some great areas of the country that were in large urban areas so we totally agree there. I also get sick of the stereotype that all people who live in rural areas are a bunch of beer bellied, NASCAR watching hicks grinds me as well.
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Unread 07-18-2008, 03:26 PM
 
Location: Ca2Mo2Ga2Va!
2,293 posts, read 3,672,858 times
Reputation: 971
I'm from San Diego but have always preferred to live outside city limits. We now live somewhat rural, though not rural enough. I've never lived in the middle of the city, not an urban type at all. Has no appeal to me what-so-ever.
We are looking to move shortly, and will be looking for a more rural setting!
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Unread 07-18-2008, 04:27 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
21,012 posts, read 15,126,306 times
Reputation: 29229
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Lennox 70 View Post
I've lived most of my life in a suburban area in Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. Being on the East Coast near a major city I sometimes get the feeling that its not the "real America" and that what I see everyday is not how most people in the U.S. live and I sometimes feel out of touch with the "reality" for most people. I live in a suburb that is quickly becoming a major city as more and more high-density places are built. But many outlying regions in my county are still pretty rural though there are subdivisions spreading outward and there are places with suburban type developments interspersed by farmland. Many suburbs are dominated by chain stores, fast food joints and franchise restaurants and there are few small-town type independent businesses. Most of the traveling I've done is to tourist destinations and I don't think I've really seen ordinary life out in America. Sometimes "America" feels like a foreign country to me as a minority born to immigrant parents and having lived on the East Coast for most of my life. Where I lived before I was 7, New Orleans, always has that mythical aura of a laid-back, down home paradise for me since we haven't been back ever since we moved to Maryland. Places like Kansas City, Charleston, Amarillo, Lubbock, or Sioux Falls also conjures up this mythical, utopian image of the all-American.

The Census Bureau designates something like 70% of Americans as living in "urban" areas which I think refers to any settlement with 5000 people or more, or in a suburban county. Here in the DC area, many counties in MD, VA, and one in WV are designated as part of metropolitan DC but many of these counties are predominantly rural and are included because some people commute to the city and to some closer in booming suburbs. Frederick COunty, MD for example feels mostly rural and agricultural with small towns. In nearby Baltimore the same is true with very rural areas included as part of Baltimore's metropolitan area. So I think teh Census description can be very misleading and inaccurate.

So how does the "typical American" live today in the 21st century? Is the world you see on CMT and hear about on country radio still reflective of the lifestyles and realities for most of the country? My local country station bills the genre as telling "real storeis about real people" and country being "America's music". A lot of the music deals with picture-perfect small towns that seem like paradise and sometimes about the "redneck" (as opposed to "trailer trash" which I believe is an offensive and elitist term) lifestyle. I've read articles about journalists in foreign countries who leave Beijing and Moscow to see "the real China or the real Russia" of how most people in those countries live? Is the same true of the U.S.?

The problem is we don't all agree on what's a small town or what's a rural area so I doubt if we'd all agree on what's "the real America." Since posting to City Data, I have been amazed at the number of people who call a town of 25,000, a small town. They call it a small town because they come from big cities or large suburban towns but a person who was truly from a small town would never call a town with a population that big, a small town.

I think Frederick, MD (the town, not the county) is really big with it's population of close to 59,000 and a population density of 2,888 people per square mile. Ask someone from Alexandria, Baltimore or Philly and they'll say it's a small town.

My beef with Maryland has always been that its identity is sucked in by DC and it's a highly transient area. A lot of people come for specific jobs and leave just as soon as they can. It's not home and it's not their final retirement destination. I bet your town, like my former MD town, does zip during the holidays. It's almost like they can't compete with DC events so they don't even try and I lived in Anne Arundel County not Montgomery or Prince Georges. Tell me something. Does your cable company give you both the MD and the DC affiliates for ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, like mine did? Which do you watch, the ABC affiliate (WMAL) out of DC or the ABC affiliate out of Baltimore (WMAR)? When you read the newspaper are you reading the Washington Post/Washington Times or the Baltimore Sun? Is the pro football team that you support the Redskins or the Ravens? It's too schizophrenic and because so many people are just "passing through" because of a job, they don't want to make the effort to be part of a real community.

I lived in my MD town for 12 years and had no attachment to it. It was fine when I was working (safe, clean, decent commute) but when it was time to retire, I had no problem with leaving it. Now my friend, who grew up in the Baltimore area, lives in a very community-minded area. It's not a rich town. The area actually has real neighborhoods and a Maryland identity. They do things there. They celebrate things there. People have lived there a long time. I'd say they're "real America" just as much as I would say some small town in Tennessee, is "real America." But my former MD town - no.
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Unread 07-18-2008, 04:52 PM
 
8,693 posts, read 11,771,452 times
Reputation: 6447
84% of Americans live in metropolitan areas, and only 6.4% of Americans actually live in very small rural areas. So a vast majority live in cities. I was kinda shoked when you asked if most Americans lived in rural/small towns, since it's such the opposite!!

55% of the people in America actually live in a metro area of over 1,000,000 people. So actually it's a fairly small number of people who know what life is like outside a huge city. Especially concidering that a large amount of those 45% who live in cities less than 1,000,000 are living in the Omaha's, Tulsa's, etc. with between 500,000 and 1,000,000.
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