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Understanding North Carolina's Urban-Rural Divide

North Carolina cities are thriving, but rural counties are not experiencing the same level of growth. Still, residents in rural areas say the numbers do not necessarily capture the whole picture.
January 6, 2020, 7am PST | Camille Fink
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James Willamor

Bruce Henderson and Danielle Chemtob take a closer look at the urban-rural divide through what is happening in North Carolina. The population of the state is increasing, but growth has been uneven. In terms of population, employment, and median household income, urban counties are seeing positive changes, while the state’s rural counties are lagging behind.

"The economic connection between cities and their surroundings is vital, [experts] say. Outlying counties are where food is grown, thousands of commuters live and city folk recreate. For all the millions of dollars invested in cities, [Brian] Dabson and others say, they will prosper only as well as their regions do," write Henderson and Chemtob.

While the statistics paint a somewhat dire picture, Henderson and Chemtob also describe rural areas where residents say their quality of life is good and they do not miss the amenities cities have to offer. A number of rural towns have also successfully reinvented themselves through tourism and diversified industrial bases.

And the division and differences between urban and rural areas may not be so clear-cut, they add. "Some cities struggle economically, after all, while many rural places thrive. Small towns, suburbs and commuter corridors act as bridges between them — all suffering traffic congestion, a shortage of affordable housing and loss of farmland to sprawl."

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Published on Thursday, December 12, 2019 in The Courier-Tribune
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