Report | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

The Myth of the Coming Labor Shortage in Rural Areas

Briefing Paper #30

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Should more education be the focal point for rural’ economic development efforts,
as much recent discussion has suggested? Analyses of the role of education in rural areas
in the 1970s and 1980s strike a note of pessimism in this regard. Killian and Parker (1991)
found no significant effect of local educational levels on employment growth in nonmetro
areas. Similarly, a very detailed analysis by McGranahan and Ghelfi (1991) suggested that
weak demand for educated rural workers has been the major problem, not a poor supply
of such workers. A close look at the data, in short, casts doubt on the efficacy of enhanced
education, by itself, as a strategy for rural economic development.

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