Sunday, March 29, 2020

Helping your local community

From my hometown, Muskego, Wisconsin. What a cool idea that can easily be replicated in your own community! The profits from this "Muskego Strong" apparel, which is made by locals here, will be used to purchase gift cards from local small businesses, which in turn will be donated to local families in need! Check the full story out in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Profits from 'Muskego Strong' apparel made by locals will be used to buy gift cards from small businesses

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Thought-provoking articles

Another mixer post containing links to several awesome articles that I've come across over the last few days. Some really thought-provoking, engaging, and genuinely fascinating ideas, research, and concepts here.

Talking the health benefits of coffee; how the invention of the computer can be traced all the way back to Aristotle; the effects of absentee leadership in the workplace; a simple way to improve memory; why forming a daily writing habit will dramatically change your life for the better; and a woman who can detect Parkinson's disease, tuberculosis, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and diabetes - all through her sense of smell.

"4 Cups a Day: 4 Surprising Health Benefits of Drinking That Much Coffee"

Two cups aren’t enough, research suggests.

"How Aristotle Created the Computer"

The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world.

"The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader"

Absentee leadership rarely comes up in today’s leadership or business literature, but research shows it is alarmingly common.

"An Effortless Way to Improve Your Memory"

A surprisingly potent technique can boost your short and long-term recall – and it appears to help everyone from students to Alzheimer’s patients.

"Form A Daily Writing Habit - It Will Improve Your Life"

Writing can help you gain clarity and confidence in many areas of life. The sooner you start, the better.

"Her Incredible Sense Of Smell Is Helping Scientists Find New Ways To Diagnose Disease"

Friday, March 27, 2020

Labor-Management relationship

A look at the relationship between labor and management from a sociological and philosophical perspective.

Aaron S. Robertson

Labor has always needed management/ownership. It is management that creates the conditions and sets the tone that leads to the various economic opportunities available to a society through the processes and activities of vision and foresight, identifying market need, planning, organization, staffing, procurement, and negotiation. Not everyone can be in management, nor does everyone wish to be in management. Management is simply not for everyone.

Management/ownership has always needed labor, but in different ways at different times in different eras. In the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries, much of the labor force needed by management came in the form of sheer physical strength and an ability to endure endless repetition fit for an environment of manufacturing and heavy industry. During this period, labor was arguably more disposable – a worker could easily be replaced, if necessary, and for any reason, by another worker with similar physical endurance. Labor was not required to think much or deviate from what were often mundane, repetitive tasks. There simply was no need to.

As the linear line of natural time and evolutionary progress went on, a combination of labor unions, public outrage, and a variety of laws and regulations sprung up to put a damper on runaway practices by management – child labor was eliminated; trusts were broken up; safety and environmental concerns addressed; the standard eight-hour workday put into place; fairer wages and hiring processes implemented. Technology naturally improved and became more readily available, helping to make manufacturing processes less physically-intensive for labor and more economical for management/ownership. New industries and professional fields emerged. More and more in labor’s ranks began pursuing higher education as it became easier to access. All these factors, combined, created the conditions for a thriving middle class and a better-equipped consumer.

Now well under way in the twenty-first century and in an era of information and innovation often referred to as “the knowledge economy,” management/ownership needs labor for another reason – their mental strength and ability. Again, this is all in accordance with the linear line of natural time and progress. While it was arguably easier for management to quickly replace a worker in the previous period with someone of comparable physical strength and ability, it is arguably more difficult for management today to find a replacement with the ideal mix of comparable, ready-to-go intellectual capability, talents, interests, skills, and practical experience. With the variables no longer confined to sheer physical metrics, coupled with a strong emphasis on the need for knowledge in an ever-complex economy, each worker today is truly unique – truly differentiated from everyone else – because each mind is truly unique.

Management has also always been dependent on labor in the sense that managers come from the ranks of labor. Put another way, labor provides and stocks the pipeline of managerial candidates, serving as the sole source of fuel. This holds true whether a particular manager in question has come from the ranks of labor within his or her own work organization at the time – the concept of promoting from within – or if the manager has joined his or her current organization after immediately coming from labor at a prior organization. Even if the manager has come to his or her current organization from a previous one as a manager, the lineage of his or her time spent within the ranks of labor can be traced back to some earlier point in his or her career. One does not enter the ranks of management without ever first spending time in the ranks of labor.

With this context established, then, that management is, and always has been, reliant on labor, and vice-versa, the dialogue for the conversation of a strong organizational culture backed by high levels of employee engagement and abundant professional development opportunities becomes more apparent and easier to have.

Fun activity with a favorite video game

Lately, I've been reading a book called, Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and Life, written by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, and published in 2014.

In a previous post I recently published here on this blog, I adapted a fun activity/lesson from the book for you to try involving your favorite song. In this post, I have from the book another activity/lesson for you involving your favorite video game. Let's get started.

The post involving songs has its focus on examining text closely. This lesson involves looking at the structure of something. See, authors, editors, screen writers, movie directors, playwrights, engineers, builders, inventors, scientists, artists - video game publishers - etc., etc., all create with a structure in mind. It's this structure - essentially, the way and the order in which something is assembled, packaged, and presented - that gives the final product its meaning, purpose, function, and value.

For this activity, you'll need paper, a pen or pencil, a plot synopsis of your favorite video game, and a couple video clips from the game you selected. If you have more than one favorite game in mind, great! That just means more practice - and more fun! But let's focus on one game at a time. You can come back and repeat the steps for the next game.

Now, to find a plot synopsis of your game, simply enter into your favorite search engine something like [insert name of video game here] narrative, or [insert name of video game here] synopsis. For the video clips, try searching on YouTube. Ideally, we want one of the clips to be early in the game, and the other one sometime later on. You can try search terms in YouTube like [insert name of video game here] opening, or [insert name of video game here] cutscene.

Here's our overall goal, what we want to accomplish by engaging in this exercise - let's listen to the authors of the book here for a moment:
As we look at the most popular games out there, most have one thing in common - a compelling story that stretches across the game and gets us to invest in the character we are playing. In video games, the same structures are often used as in books - ways of organizing - like the plot mountain, or techniques like descriptions and dialogue. Let's see if we can find these structures in the games we play. (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 55)
Next, read the synopsis of the game that you found, followed by viewing the video clips that you located.

Reflect on, and write about, what you learned and discovered by reading the synopsis and viewing the video clips. Here are some questions to guide you in this process:

Is the video game telling a story? If so, how is it telling a story? What is the story about? Who are the main characters of the story?

What is the dialogue between the characters (if any) telling you?

Are there flashbacks in time? Are there written or verbal descriptions of anything? Are there any other unique elements/effects being utilized? If so, what purpose(s) are these parts serving? Do they offer insight to a larger story, or theme, or message?

Look at the order of things - why, do you think, the game's creators chose the order of events and effects that they did? Would there be things not making sense if the order was changed, even slightly?

After going through this exercise, you may be surprised at what you learn about your favorite video game(s)! As the authors of the book point out, "In fact, some students have been surprised during this brief study, saying, 'I didn't even realize this was telling a story the whole time!'" (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 55).

We'll close with another observation by the authors, this one involving a class of sixth graders:
...we read through the first part of the synopsis of the popular game Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (Sony Computer Entertainment 2011). Together, we used our structure chart (see Figure 4.2 on p. 54) and determined that the first part of the synopsis is the 'exposition,' which includes a flashback to Drake as an orphan and ends with him meeting his mentor, Sully, who teaches him to become a thief. The class then briefly talked together about the purpose of that part. First, they noticed that the flashback helped us understand Drake and even care about him. One student said, 'Drake is lost and alone as a kid, so maybe we feel bad for him, like it's OK that he is stealing things. Or at least a little bit more OK.' (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, pp. 55-56)
Lastly, with our participation in this fun learning activity, we're further enhancing a number of skills, and you may not even be aware of it. Just as with the activity involving your favorite song, we're working on our listening, writing/communication, reading, and critical thinking/reflection skills. We're building new connections in our minds, and creating new meanings and understandings. As the authors state, "The first step in studying structure is being able to notice it. As students learn to see the parts of things, the steps involved, they develop the ability to see how those parts work and interact with each other" (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 56).

The next time you play that favorite video game of yours, don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about it differently after this activity!

Happy Learning,

Mr. Robertson

Feel free to share your favorite video game and thoughts after completing this exercise in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Fun activity with your favorite song

Lately, I've been reading a book called, Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and Life, written by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, and published in 2014.

I've adapted a fun activity/lesson from the book for you to try here, one involving your favorite song. If you have more than one favorite song in mind, great! That just means more practice - and more fun! The song or songs you have in mind must have lyrics for this activity, though. They can't be instrumentals. Come, let's dive in.

First, you'll need paper and a pen or pencil.

Next, think about your favorite song. Feel free to pull it up on your computer/listening device, if you'd like, but this isn't necessary. As you think about/listen to this song, what's coming to mind? What is the song about? What message, or messages, is the singer trying to convey? What images do you have? Jot this all down, whatever comes to mind. There are no right or wrong answers.

After you've completed these steps, look for the written lyrics to the song online. Print them off, if you can. Otherwise, have them up on your device's screen.

Read the lyrics. And don't just quickly scan them over. Really spend some time with them. It's important to examine them closely.

Now, jot down what the lyrics appear to be saying. What is the song about? What message, or messages, is the song trying to convey? What images do you have? Write it all down. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here.

Finally, look at what you wrote down the first time (after thinking about/listening to the song), and then take a look at what you wrote down the second time (after a close examination of the song's lyrics). Compare and contrast in a third writing. Synthesize and reflect. Are there any major differences between the first two writings that stand out? Any similarities? Any new ideas that emerged in your second writing after a close reading of the lyrics?

There are several main takeaways here. First, it's easy to form preconceived notions about something without really diving into the available evidence. Now, in many cases throughout life, forming preconceived notions about something without truly examining evidence may, thankfully, prove to be relatively harmless. But in other cases, it goes without saying, this can certainly be very dangerous or even fatal, for ourselves and for others.

In this instance, fortunately, we just happen to be considering a favorite song of ours, and the preconceived notions we're trying to break here may simply be differences in moods. For example, coming into this activity, perhaps you've always identified your favorite song with a joyful occasion. Maybe this song causes you to think about your favorite vacation spot, or a love interest, or what you believe was a more care-free time in your life. After going through this exercise, though, perhaps you now realize, after truly listening to the lyrics through reading them, the song doesn't have much to do at all with happiness. And vice-versa - maybe a song that you've always associated with a more unpleasant or complex time, place, or event in your life, it turns out, is actually a little sunnier in its outlook after a deeper examination of it. If the song tells of a story, maybe you realize now that you had a completely different interpretation of that story before engaging in this exercise.

Lastly, we're further enhancing a number of skills with this fun activity, and you may not even be aware of it. We're working on our listening, writing/communication, reading, and critical thinking/reflection skills. We're building new connections in our minds, and creating new meanings and understandings.

The next time you listen to that favorite song of yours, don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about it differently after this activity!

Happy Learning,

Mr. Robertson

Feel free to share your favorite song and thoughts after completing this exercise in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed this activity, check out this other exercise involving your favorite video game

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Emotional Disturbance

Emotional Disturbance (ED) and Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD)

The terms EBD (which stands for Emotional Behavioral Disorders) and ED (Emotional Disturbance) are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but Emotional Disturbance (ED) is the official term used in federal special education law, and it has a specific definition and set of criteria that must be met as laid out in the law.

Emotional Disturbance, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, is,
A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:
  • An inability to learn that can't be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
As previously stated, the terms EBD (which stands for Emotional Behavioral Disorders) and ED (Emotional Disturbance) are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but Emotional Disturbance (ED) is the official term used in federal special education law, specifically IDEA of 2004.

The reason why these terms are often used interchangeably is because it is certainly possible for a student to struggle with an emotional/behavioral disorder that does not meet the definition and criteria of ED as laid out in the special education law.

In fact, it is estimated that as high as 16% of the student population may have an EBD of some kind, and that 3-5% of all students have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Out of a class of 30 students, this translates into anywhere from 1-5 students having a psychiatric disorder. Up to 20% of these students show symptoms of disorders, yet only 1% of these students are referred for special education services. Only around 12% of schools and districts conduct universal screening for EBDs.

Students identified with EBD experience intense, chronic behavior and/or emotional challenges that last longer than six months. They are considered to have a mental health disability, and diagnosis is typically made by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. They are at-risk in every social and academic facet. Indeed, many EBD students miss out on instruction due to trips to the office, suspensions, and expulsions. Many have Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) in place that are designed to provide customized strategies and tools for helping them behave appropriately.

Keys to success for these students include strong, healthy relationships with school staff, as well as early identification, intervention, and various academic and behavioral supports. Staff should avoid power struggles with these students.

Further Reading and Additional Resources

Emotional Disturbance - Center for Parent Information & Resources

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - U.S. Department of Education

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the Classroom -

Monday, March 23, 2020


It's said that 15-20% of the population has dyslexia. That equates to roughly four students out of a class of 20. Of those who have dyslexia, 20% drop out of high school. Only 10% of those with it are often referred to as "highly successful," while the remaining 90% often go unseen.

Common myths and misperceptions about dyslexia, in no particular order:
  • Reversing letters is the symptom by which dyslexia is diagnosed
  • If a student can read, s/he doesn't have dyslexia
  • It's the result of a deficiency in IQ
  • Students who don't write or read well are lazy and/or simply not motivated to want to learn
  • Phonics instruction is the key to helping children with dyslexia
  • Dyslexia doesn't really exist - it's just an excuse
  • Affects only, or mainly, boys. The truth: About equal between boys and girls. As with ADHD, more boys tend to get referred for dyslexia screening because they tend to act out more in class. Girls are usually quieter, so they're, sadly, flying under the radar.
  • It will be outgrown
  • Cannot be diagnosed until the age of eight

Potential signs a student has dyslexia:
  • Often spells poorly
  • Often reads larger words without difficulty, but makes errors with words like the, from, was, and
  • Very bright, but doesn't do well in school
  • Has a feeling of being "dumb," or has low self-esteem
  • Gets easily frustrated and/or emotional about activities like reading, school, or taking tests
  • Not wanting to read aloud
  • Writes or reads with omissions, additions, repetitions, and substitutions
  • Good at math laid out in straight arithmetic format, but not with math word problems
  • Overall challenges with reading fluency, word recognition, writing, spelling, and potentially spoken language
  • Often misreads word endings, or leaves them off when writing 

Indicators very inconsistent

The indicators that a student has dyslexia are very inconsistent. What one student shows for symptoms, another student will not. And those who have dyslexia can have different days or even different moments - one day or moment is great, while the next one is a complete struggle. It's this inconsistency and lack of predictability that leads to, unfortunately, the misperception held by teachers and others that a student is merely lazy or unmotivated.

Students with dyslexia are visual thinkers, possess strong imaginations

While we know that indicators are very inconsistent for those that have dyslexia, we also know that dyslexics are strong visual thinkers/learners. They tend to be what is referred to as visual-spatial, or, in other words, non-verbal, in their learning styles. As such, they can have rather strong, creative imaginations. School systems are traditionally excellent when it comes to accommodating verbal learners, but not so much visual-spatial learners.

As visual-spatial, or, non-verbal, learners, the thinking process for those with dyslexia is much faster than for those thinking with words. This explains the apparent struggling with, or stumbling over, words, and being out of sequence. Furthermore, it helps explain why those with dyslexia struggle with simple words like the, from, was, and - there's no point of visual reference with these words. Nothing comes to mind when trying to picture these words. 

Three main solutions/strategies to dealing with dyslexia in the school setting through special education services:

Remediation - reteaching in a different way, in a different setting, or at a different time

Accommodation - changes made to the environment, or to teaching and learning variables

Modification - changes made to curriculum

Further Reading and Additional Resources

What Is Dyslexia? -

Orton-Gillingham Approach (a.k.a. "structured literacy) to reading instruction

Davis Theory - Davis Dyslexia Association International

International Dyslexia Association

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD - Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - cause impairment in functioning. Those with the disorder experience, among other challenges, difficulty with: regulating emotions, organizing and planning, working memory, time management, staying on task, inhibition, and the ability to sense and appreciate the needs and situations of others.

The causes of ADHD are still unknown, but what we do know is that it can run in families. Prenatal factors, such as the mother's stress levels, nutrition, and exposure to toxins, may be potential causes. There is no evidence that parenting practices or teacher practices cause the disorder, but they can certainly impact impairment for either better or worse.

Currently, there are no medical / laboratory tests available that can diagnose ADHD. It is usually diagnosed by a licensed psychologist after meeting specific criteria.

Criteria for diagnosis 

As previously stated, ADHD is usually diagnosed by a licensed psychologist. The required criteria for diagnosis are a minimum six months of displaying symptoms, along with a minimum of two different settings where those symptoms are being displayed (like home and school, for example).

ADHD's relationship to other disorders and how it affects children

Approximately 11% of school-aged children have ADHD. It is said to be the most common neurodevelopmental disorder affecting children. Indeed, it accounts for 1/3 to 1/2 of all referrals to psychologists. Many children who have ADHD experience strong emotional reactions to any sort of provocation.

Additionally, many with ADHD have other disorders, as well. These may include, in no particular order:
  • anxiety disorders
  • conduct disorder (CD)
  • specific learning disorders
  • oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • language disorders
  • Depression and/or other mood disorders
  • Tourette syndrome (TS)
Different for boys and girls 

It is thought that, sadly, girls tend to be underdiagnosed because they usually do not display the overt hyperactivity component as much. Whereas boys tend to show the hyperactive/behavioral piece, making their symptoms easier to spot, girls are struggling quietly with the inattentive/inability to focus part. 

How ADHD relates to special education

Regardless if a student is taking medication, interventions in the school environment are, more often than not, needed.

Since 1991, ADHD is classified as Other Health Impaired (OHI), which allows children to qualify for special education services. Before 1991, a diagnosis of ADHD, alone, did not suffice for special education services. Some 60% of students who are receiving special education services in the categories of either Other Health Impaired (OHI) or Emotional Disturbance (ED) meet the criteria for ADHD.

The two most relevant laws benefiting children with ADHD are the 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004.

Continues into adulthood

There's a misconception out there that children with ADHD will simply "outgrow" the disorder in adulthood. The simple truth is that ADHD carries into adulthood. It is a chronic condition through life, and that's why early diagnosis, intervention, and good management of symptoms are vital for success. We are finding that adults with ADHD tend to have higher rates of car accidents, difficulties with relationships of all kinds, employment challenges, substance abuse, unstable friendships and romantic relationships, and higher rates of divorce.

Further Reading and Additional Resources

Why ADHD in Girls Is Often Overlooked -

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) -

ADHD Health Center -

Friday, March 20, 2020

Elmore James

As I'm working on a number of ideas for new blog posts here, I find myself in an Elmore James -kinda mood at the moment. Here's my playlist right now, if you want to follow along.

Elmore James (1918-1963) is a blues legend and master of the slide guitar. Sadly, he died young, at the age of 45, from a heart attack. He had a serious heart condition. Yet, he was around long enough to produce some incredible material, and many of his songs have been covered by some of the biggest acts in both the blues and rock worlds over the decades.

Elmore James is included in my previous posts, Paying homage to the slide guitar, and, Paying homage to the instrumental, as well.


Elmore James playlist, in order of appearance:

Sho' Nuff I Do
It Hurts Me Too
One Way Out
Every Day I Have The Blues
Stormy Monday
Early One Morning
Talk To Me Baby
Something Inside Me
Standing At The Crossroads
The Sky Is Crying

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Online learning during coronavirus COVID-19 school closures

Calling all parents, teachers, and students! Following are a few links to huge lists of awesome online learning resources. With K-12 school and college / university closures taking place all across the country due to coronavirus COVID-19 concerns, it can certainly be tough for working parents and teachers to suddenly hunt down and compile quality learning resources on their own. Fortunately, there are many good people out there from all walks of life making this a top-priority mission for the benefit of us all.

My blog, Mr. Robertson's Corner, has found its way on many of these lists, and that's actually how these compilations have come to my attention. I'm getting an influx of traffic from these sources, which I'm very grateful for.

These lists have it all - math, science, ELA, social studies, science, reading, writing, test prep, the arts, history, you name it. From early childhood education all the way through college, you're bound to find some nice gems here. 

Here are those lists:

Free learning help during COVID-19 -

The best free educational websites for kids -

Happy learning!

All the Best,

Mr. Robertson 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus COVID-19 explained

Two videos here. Both are very enlightening. Well worth the few minutes of your time.

Why are we reacting to COVID-19 with social restrictions and travel restrictions? Hopefully this quick video will help you understand our response to COVID-19 - An explanation by Dr. William Horgan, MD, MBA:

What Actually HAPPENS When You Get Coronavirus? - An explanation by Dr. Zubin Damania ("Dr. Z"):

Getting to know your neighbors

Ten reasons you should get to know your neighbors

Befriending one's neighbors is something that happens less and less these days, especially for those living in large cities. Don't take it from me. Take it from my man, German philosopher and sociologist, Georg Simmel (1858-1918), who talked about the effects of the big city on the individual in his groundbreaking 1903 essay, The Metropolis and Mental Life. Whether it's due to people's hectic schedules or because today's world favors social media interactions over face-to-face meetings is unclear. No matter the cause, there are some very good reasons why you should get to know your neighbors. Here are ten such reasons.

1. Neighbors can become conveniently-located friends.

Though there are many reasons why neighbors make great friends, one of the biggest reasons is proximity. Instead of having to drive long distances to fulfill your social needs, it is much easier to visit a friend who lives across the street or down the road. If you make an effort to connect with your neighbors, you could end up with some conveniently-located friends.

2. Neighbors can provide added security by watching over each other's homes and property.

You can't always be around to watch over your home and property, but if trusted neighbors are keeping a watchful eye on the area, they can alert you or the police if something seems amiss. Even if your neighborhood friendships have yet to develop, consider swapping phone numbers with various neighbors so you can easily contact each other should a need arise.

3. Neighbors can help fill the void when supplies are running low.

Run out of sugar for your morning coffee? Need an egg for your son's birthday cake? What about a battery for your daughter's Halloween costume? You could find yourself out of luck if the stores are closed and you don't know your neighbors. Getting to know your neighbors provides you with alternative places to source much-needed items, so you won't have to go without.

4. Neighbors can help run errands.

Need to go shopping but find yourself swamped with other things to do? Your neighbors may be able to help you out. If a neighbor is already going to the store and they know you need sugar, eggs, and batteries, then they might offer to pick them up for you.

5. Neighbors can help solve each other's general problems.

There are many times in life when people require outside help. Accidentally drained your car's battery? Instead of waiting for a tow truck, a helpful neighbor might be able to give you a boost. Having trouble moving a piece of heavy furniture? One of your neighbors may be willing to share the burden. When it comes to solving life's general problems, neighbors are often all you need.

6. Neighbors can provide a safer place to keep a spare house key.

It's always wise to have a spare house key. It's less wise, however, to hide it under your doormat. For a safer place to leave your spare key, why not entrust it to a neighborhood friend who's usually home? Such an arrangement can also be beneficial if you are away from home and realize that you accidentally left your kitchen window open. If a neighbor has your spare house key, they can easily let themselves in and close the window.

7. Neighbors can help with household tasks during vacations or other prolonged absences.

Neighbors can be extremely helpful during lengthy absences. If possible, have a neighbor stop by each day of your absence to complete simple household tasks like bringing in your mail, feeding your pets, and watering your plants. In doing so, your neighbor may also keep your home from appearing empty to any unsavory characters who may pass by while you are away.

8. Neighbors can help in emergency childcare situations.

Need someone to look after your children when your regular babysitter bails at the last minute? Trusted neighbors can often provide emergency childcare if you're ever in a pinch. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself needing to run an errand while your child is asleep. Rather than wake your child, ask a trusted neighbor if they'll come over for a short while to cover for you.

9. Neighbors with a good rapport are more likely to be respectful to one another.

Neighbors sharing in a harmonious relationship are less likely to be loud or otherwise disrespectful to one another. Friendly neighbors are also more likely to give you a break if one of your parties gets a little out of hand or louder than expected.

10. Neighbors can provide new business networking opportunities.

Befriending your neighbors allows you to join new social circles, connecting you with a variety of new people. While it's hard to predict where your next business connection will come from, socializing with your neighbors could be the catalyst that connects you to your next business networking opportunity.

There are so many reasons why you should get to know your neighbors. Hopefully, after reading this list, you've discovered a few new reasons and are now excited to start building some lasting neighborhood friendships. Do remember, however, that these benefits work both ways. Be a good neighbor and don't be afraid to offer a little neighborly help in return whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Conversation starters for neighbors

Getting to know your neighbors: Conversation starters

If you struggle to connect with your neighbors, you're not alone. After all, striking up a conversation with someone for the first time can be stressful, especially if you're shy or don't know what to say. To help ease the tension the next time you run into a neighbor, try to break the ice with one of the following simple conversation starters.

Do you know what the weather is supposed to be like later today?
That's a great shirt! Where did you get it?
Are there any nearby restaurants you'd recommend?
Do you know of a good dog park in the area?

While such questions are useful for short interactions, you may need to dig a little deeper if longer conversations are in order. In those cases, try finding a common interest between you and your neighbor. To learn about your neighbors' interests, pay close attention to the details until you can spot some obvious clues. Once you've discovered a common interest, use that topic to start a conversation.

Here are some notable things to look out for which may signify a neighbor's interests, plus a sample question for each interest in case you need a little inspiration.

Sports logos: Did you catch the game last night?
Band memorabilia: Such a great band. What's your favorite song of theirs?
Pets: Cute dog! What's its name?
Famous books: I've been meaning to read that. Is it any good?

Best ways to buy groceries

Buying groceries like a pro – tips and advice

With the cost of groceries constantly on the rise, most shoppers have taken notice of their increasingly high grocery bills. They’ve also noticed how time consuming grocery shopping can be and that poor buying choices are being made when they are in a hurry. Because of such problems, people are looking for a better way to shop. Luckily, the answer is simple. By following some advice and changing a few shopping habits, anyone can start buying groceries like a professional.

#1 – Create a shopping list

Creating a shopping list can shorten the time spent buying groceries. No longer will last-minute meal decisions need to be made as you wander up and down the aisles, because you’ll know exactly what you need to buy before you even enter the store. Having a grocery list also prevents the type of aimless shopping which can lead to filling your cart with unnecessary food, just because you were unsure of what to buy. Impulsive purchases are what send grocery bills through the roof.

For those wondering how to create a detailed list of groceries, start with a comprehensive meal plan. Decide how long the groceries should last and plan out in detail each meal during that time frame. Once you know which meals you will be preparing, you’ll know exactly what foods should be added to the list. Be sure to add specific quantities where required, so you don’t end up buying the wrong amount of food as you are shopping.

#2 – Search for fliers and coupons

Before throwing your junk mail into the recycle bin, set aside the grocery store fliers. If you are one of the lucky few who don’t receive junk mail, rest assured, most fliers can be found on the Internet. Though grocery stores often post their latest flier on their Web site, there are other Web sites that link to several of the latest fliers that can save you the trouble of searching for each one separately. A quick search for "online fliers" should point you in the right direction.

By reading the fliers, you’ll know which sales you’ll benefit most from. You should visit the stores advertising several of the items you plan to buy. It isn’t worth saving a few pennies on salad, if it requires extra time and gas to run across town to buy just the one item.

Though coupons are no longer required for most sale items, it can still be beneficial to do a quick search. You will find that many coupons provide excellent savings. Don’t be tempted to use them all, however, as it doesn’t save anyone money to buy unnecessary things.

#3 – Never shop hungry

Though it might sound strange, a common mistake for grocery buyers is shopping with an empty stomach. People often buy unnecessary things when they are hungry, so it’s best to leave the shopping for later if you haven’t eaten.

Shortly after a meal is one of the best times to shop for groceries. Before leaving, however, you should give your stomach some time to settle. This is often the perfect time to check your local fliers and search for coupons.

#4 – Buy “in season” produce

For nutritious foods that don’t break the bank, the produce section is the best place to look. In fact, some of the cheapest foods for sale are fruits and vegetables. This becomes especially true for any produce that is currently in season. Better yet, seasonal foods will also reach their peak freshness during this time.

With worldwide food delivery, most kinds of produce are available year round. Certain foods, however, will be at their peak during different seasons. These include:

Spring: apricots, carrots, pineapple, snow peas, spinach, and strawberries.
Summer: beans, blueberries, broccoli, corn, cucumber, peaches, peppers, raspberries, and tomatoes.
Fall: apples, cauliflower, grapes, mushrooms, pears, squash, and sweet potatoes.
Winter: citrus fruits, leeks, radishes, and turnips.

#5 – Avoid ready-made foods

Pre-prepared foods may offer convenience, but are more expensive to buy and are often anything but nutritious. This is because they tend to be filled with ingredients like sugar, salt, and fat – all things a healthy diet should not include. Instead, cooking from scratch can save you money and allow for meals that contain more of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. It also allows you to substitute for ingredients you like, while leaving out the foods you’d rather not eat.

#6 – Sample different brands

It’s a myth that only leading brand manufacturers sell the best food. In fact, many of the products sold under the store brand label are made and packaged by the same factories that produce the popular name brands that you have come to know and love. Some store brand foods even taste better than the leading brand, but cost much less.

If you find a product that doesn’t meet your standards, simply try another brand until you do. There’s no harm in testing different brands. Just avoid bulk purchases until you know if the product is right for you. If later on you still prefer the leading brand, you can always switch back.

By following some simple advice and changing a few of your shopping habits, it’s easy to avoid the common mistakes shoppers make when buying groceries. In doing so, you will save time and money, while benefiting from eating healthier foods at home. There has never been a better time to start shopping more efficiently, so what are you waiting for? Start buying your groceries like a professional!

How to sleep better

Seven steps to a better night's sleep

Are you having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? If you are, you’re not alone. Whether the cause is from a medical condition, stressful situations in life (like simply being a high school or college student!), irregular sleep patterns from shift work, or any number of other reasons, more and more people are waking up feeling less than rested. Though we can’t eliminate everything from our lives that can make our time sleeping less than ideal, there are some suggestions anyone can try that can lead to a better night’s sleep.

#1 – Exercise regularly

Some light exercise, such as yoga or walking, can help you get a better night’s sleep when done on a regular basis. This is because 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, when done at least three times a week, can help to relieve any built up muscle tension. Less muscle tension will allow you to feel more relaxed in bed, essentially laying the groundwork for a deeper, more effective sleep.

The best time to exercise is during the morning hours, however early in the afternoon has also been proven effective. The only time you definitely shouldn’t be exercising, is during the two to three hour period of time before you plan to go to bed. This is because the adrenaline produced by your body as you exercise can end up interfering with your sleep.

#2 – Don’t eat or drink before bed

It is recommended that you don’t eat or drink anything during the final two hours you plan to be awake. To do so can leave you waking up later in the night with the feeling that you need to use the bathroom. By consuming less food and drinks before going to bed, you can reduce or even eliminate the number of bathroom visits needed during your sleeping hours.

You should also avoid food and beverages containing caffeine long before it’s time to go to bed. As the effects from these products can continue for several hours after they have been consumed, this is something you should be thinking about much earlier into the day. Sticking strictly to a decaffeinated diet might be best if you are still having trouble sleeping.

If you must eat or drink something just before your bedtime, be sure to avoid anything containing grains or sugars as they will raise your blood sugar level and make it harder to fall asleep. If you do manage to fall asleep despite the high blood sugar in your body, it is possible that you will wake up later in the night as your blood sugar level drops.

#3 – Before bed, enjoy a hot bath or shower

As the day comes to an end, your body temperature naturally drops. This action tells the brain that it’s time to start feeling tired. By taking a hot bath or shower shortly before going to bed, you can increase this natural drop in temperature and amplify your body’s response. This larger drop in temperature has been proven to help people fall asleep faster and to later achieve a deeper sleep.

To be most effective, you should remain in the hot water for around 20 to 30 minutes. This will provide enough time for your body temperature to properly rise.

#4 – Use the bathroom before going to bed

It is recommended that the final thing you do before heading to bed is use the bathroom. In doing so, you reduce the chance of later waking up with the feeling that you need to go. At the very least, it should delay the urge to urinate until further into the night, giving you a longer period of uninterrupted sleep when you first hit the sheets.

#5 – Keep a consistent bedtime

For your body to fall into its natural sleep rhythm, the time you go to bed and the time you wake up in the morning needs to remain the same. After a while your body will begin to recognize when it is time for bed and because of this, it will become easier for you to fall asleep. Your body will also start to recognize when it’s time to wake up, so getting out of bed in the morning shouldn’t be as difficult.

It is vitally important to your sleep rhythm to maintain your consistent sleeping hours during each day of the week. This also includes weekends. To change your sleeping habits mid-week will prevent your sleep rhythm from being properly established, and, as a result, the quality of your sleep will not improve.

#6 – Limit the surrounding noise

All auditory distractions, such as your television, cell phone, and radio, should be turned off during your sleeping hours. The sounds produced by such devices stimulate your brain and make it more difficult for you to initially fall asleep. If the noises from these devices continue to play while you are sleeping, they can also prevent you from entering the deeper stages of sleep later on in the night.

If you find it difficult to fall asleep because of outside noises or some other sounds that are out of your control, it might be useful to purchase a white noise machine. These can effectively drown out the other sounds that are keeping you awake at night. If you do not have access to a white noise machine, the whirring from a fan can be just as effective at canceling out other unwanted sounds.

Ear plugs are another great resource to lower excess noise while you are sleeping. Since they reduce several decibels of noise, they can be excellent if you are the type of person that prefers to sleep in a quieter environment. As there are many types of ear plugs on the market, some additional research may be required to find the pair that is right for you.

#7 – Darker rooms make for better sleeping

Maintaining the darkest possible environment is very important during your sleeping hours. Even the smallest bit of light in the sleeping area can inhibit your body’s production of serotonin, which helps to regulate the onset of sleep. If a completely dark room is not possible, you may wish to consider using a sleep mask to block out any additional light.

If you do need to get up in the middle of the night, it’s important not to turn on any bright lights. You should continue to keep the area as dark as possible, because it will be much easier to continue sleeping if your body hasn’t been fooled into thinking it’s time to wake up. A small night light will provide more than enough light to safely find your way in the dark, but it won’t be bright enough to keep you from falling back asleep once you’ve returned to bed.

Be it from life’s stressful events, certain medical conditions, or any number of other reasons, too many people are waking up in the morning without feeling completely rested. With our busy schedules often leaving us little time to sleep, we need to do everything possible to get the most out of the hours we actually do get. By following these seven simple steps, you, too, can improve the quality of your sleep and start getting the kind of rest you’ve always dreamed about.

Monday, March 16, 2020


Stonehenge has long held an aura of magic and mystery and, like many ancient monuments, the full story behind its creation remains unknown. Just who built the stone structure, and for what purpose was it erected? No one knows for certain the answers to these questions, but there are certainly enough theories going around to occupy a person’s imagination for quite some time.

Found in the county of Wiltshire, England, on the Salisbury Plain, is one of the world’s most famous and recognizable structures. Stonehenge, which has been dated to around 3100 BC in its earliest phases of construction, consists of a circular arrangement of large standing stones. The stones themselves aren’t believed to have been erected until around 2400 – 2200 BC.

These massive stones, some weighing up to 45 tons, were brought to the site from a number of faraway locations. It is currently unknown which methods were used to transport the stones from their original resting places, but the theories range from supernatural intervention to ancient men with ropes.

Various theories have also been proposed to explain the purpose of the ancient monument. Some people believe Stonehenge was constructed as a secular calendar or astronomical observatory, while others suggest that the stones mark the location of an ancient healing site. Other theories propose that Stonehenge was built on a sacred religious site, used in ancient rituals.

Though no one knows exactly why Stonehenge was built, it’s certain that the ancient stone circle has captivated our imaginations for thousands of years. Undoubtedly, this will continue well into the future, as the archeologists of tomorrow work to unlock the secrets of this magical place.


Friday, March 13, 2020

The truth about cash-back rewards

Breaking change: The original cash-back rewards program

A couple days ago, during my drive into work at the high school I work at, I was thinking of some more personal finance topics to explore and write about for you here on this blog. I recently rekindled my interest in personal finance, as I'm assisting a student in a personal finance class this semester. I'm also trying to clean up some debt, save more, and budget better, so being in this class could not come at a better time for me. I'm getting back to some basics, rediscovering some tips and strategies, and learning some new ones. I'm learning along with these students, and it's been a blast. Among the major highlights for me so far, I'm entering my third week trying the envelope budgeting system.

Anyways, I had this "genius" moment come to my mind during my drive to work the other morning, although I'm pretty sure I'm not the first one to have thought about this in this way. Here it goes:

Many credit card companies offer cards that give the cardholder cash back on purchases. It's an incentive to get as many people hooked on their product - credit cards - as possible, and it doesn't really cost these credit card companies anything to do so. Case in point using simple math: If a card gives you 1.5% cash back on purchases, you have to spend $1,000 on the card just to get $15 back. That doesn't sound like much of a deal, does it? Yet, we as consumers fall for this all the time, and I've certainly fallen for it over the years. It's a psychological trap. We think in our minds we're being rewarded, and to some degree, we are. But that assumes we're always able to pay off the entire balance of the card on time. The credit card companies are banking on us not always paying our full balances off on time so that they can charge huge amounts of interest. Suddenly, that "reward" is quickly eaten up by all that interest.

So how about trying this instead: Paying cash for as many things as you can, and putting away the coins that you get back in change. Look at breaking change as being the original cash-back rewards program. There's no risk of huge amounts of interest with this simple, back-to-basics strategy, and, before you know it, all that change is going to add up to some real cash.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Our audience is growing!

I'm grateful to be approaching 500 likes on the Mr. Robertson's Corner Facebook page! At last check this morning, we're just 10 away from reaching that milestone.

Likewise, the traffic to the blog has been on fire in recent weeks, as well!

I see that the Facebook page's fans are coming from all around the country - California, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama - literally all around the country. And quite a diverse blend of fans - parents, grandparents, teachers, high school students, college students, and recent grads now out there in the workforce.

This is really inspiring, and I'm very thankful to you for your continued support, readership, and help in spreading the word. This project has really become a labor of love for me, and it's YOU that keeps me going.

Mr. Robertson

Coronavirus in Wisconsin

In recent days, I launched a new Web project,, to track and report on coronavirus in Wisconsin, as well as nationally. It's my sincere hope that the site will be of value to you, as I intend to offer vital information, resources, and news concerning coronavirus in Wisconsin and across the country.

Learn more about COVID-19 coronavirus.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Eliminating medical debt for others

Came across this news article recently, and thought it was worth sharing here. This is a wonderful example of what leadership and giving back is all about. Very inspirational. Bless all involved.

Here's that news article, which discusses how groups of everyday, ordinary people are coming together to eliminate the medical debt of others:

How ordinary citizens are wiping out millions of dollars in medical debt for others -- and how you can, too

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Rural poverty

Exploring the Nature of Rural Poverty in the United States
Aaron S. Robertson, MSM
Cardinal Stritch University
April 2018

Table of Contents

Literature Review
Interviews with Three Professionals Knowledgeable on the Subject
Analysis of the Interviews and Alignment with the Literature
Further Discussion and Analysis
The urban-rural conundrum, and attempting to solve the issue of rural poverty
Implications for Further Research
Appendix A: Interview with Elizabeth Knapp
Appendix B: Interview with Cecilia Dever
Appendix C: Interview with Ginny Tillman


Employing a combination of academic research, recent news articles and current events, original interviews with several experts and practitioners in the field, and his own reflections and observations, the author explores the subject of rural poverty in the United States, ultimately arriving at several potential solutions that, when combined, may significantly diminish the problem.

Keywords: rural poverty, rural poverty in the United States, urban poverty

Exploring the Nature of Rural Poverty in the United States


The genesis of this paper goes back to the summer of 2017, with its first rendition completed and submitted as a course assignment later that fall as part of the author’s pursuit of a Ph.D. in leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Building upon that initial research and exploration of the subject, this expanded April 2018 rendition includes excerpts from two new interviews with Dr. Linda M. Lobao and Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman, rural sociologists with Ohio State University and University of Kentucky, respectively. The conversations were conducted by phone in March 2018. A greatly expanded bibliography, along with additional news accounts and personal observations and reflections, are also included, among other items.

The aim of the paper is to explore and grapple with the subject of rural poverty in the United States. As will be argued throughout the paper, rural poverty appears to be a subject that is barely given mention, either in research or in everyday life. To this point, when this author announced to one of his professors and several of his classmates during the summer of 2017 that he would like to take up the subject of rural poverty as a research initiative, he was met with a somewhat surprised shock by all.

What is rural poverty? Why is the subject seemingly awarded little to no attention, yet its wrath is devastating enough to have brought Philip Alston, the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, to the United States in recent months to tour impoverished areas across the country, both rural and urban? Among the stops on his tour were Butler and Lowndes counties in Alabama, in a region known as the state’s Black Belt (Pilkington, 2017; Sheets, 2017). In these parts, “…residents often fall ill with ailments like E. Coli and hookworm – a disease of extreme poverty long eradicated in most parts of the U.S. – in part because they do not have consistently reliable access to clean drinking water that has not been tainted by raw sewage and other contaminants” (Sheets, 2017, para. 7). Who is affected by rural poverty? What are possible solutions to solving the problem, or at least greatly easing it? The paper will seek to address these and other questions.

Literature Review

“Rural poverty and rural issues in general remain invisible in the United States to the urban majority,” contends Lauren Gurley in the opening sentence of the abstract accompanying her article, “Who’s Afraid of Rural Poverty? The Story Behind America’s Invisible Poor,” appearing in the May 2016 issue of the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (p. 589). Why is this the case? How is this the case? Perhaps a good starting point to addressing these and other meaningful questions rests in the fact that there appears to be no solid working definition of rural.

Gurley explains that there is, “ clear official definition of ‘rural,’ only a negative definition of what is not urbanized. This reveals not only the reason why rural spaces are not a distinct locus of concern, but also why the United States has never had a coherent rural policy” (p. 594). Gurley (2016) continues on this point by quoting Dr. Ann Tickamyer, a professor of rural sociology at Pennsylvania State University (Pennsylvania State University, College of Agricultural Sciences, 2017), in an interview that she gave to Gurley on February 8, 2016: “We have policy on agriculture. We have policy on various industries. We have a lot of policy. But rural is always this sort of residual category…We don’t specifically focus on rural areas to make policy. It’s always how some other policy affects a rural area” (Tickamyer, 2016, quoted in Gurley, 2016, p. 594). Furthermore, Dr. Linda M. Lobao, a professor of rural sociology at Ohio State University (Ohio State University, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, 2017), quoted by Gurley (2016) from a 2015 interview she gave to Gurley, adds, “What is rural in Ohio is very different to what is rural in South Dakota…In Ohio, any place in the state, you could get to a major metro area within an hour or so. That’s true of New England and East Coast, as well, whereas out in the West it’s not” (Lobao, 2015, quoted in Gurley, 2016, p. 593).

Indeed, very few rural areas are even close to being nearly identical in nature, with many of them vastly different. In her 1999 seminal work, Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America, Dr. Cynthia M. Duncan, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire (University of New Hampshire, Discovery Program, 2018), shared the experiences of residents in three rural communities, each one truly distinct in character. Duncan assigned made-up names to each community in order to mask their true identities – “Blackwell” is situated in Appalachian coal country; “Dahlia” is located in the Mississippi Delta; and “Gray Mountain” is in northern New England (Summers, 2000; Dyk, 2016). Dyk (2016), in a review of Duncan’s 2015 follow-up second edition with the slightly different title of, Worlds Apart: Poverty and Politics in Rural America, notes about the original 1999 work, “…the pressing issues identified in the three communities: rigid classes and corrupt politics (Blackwell), racial segregation and planter control (Dahlia), and equality and civic involvement (Gray Mountain.)” (p. 661).

Adding further complications to this lack of an official definition of rural and the vast differentiation among rural communities was the absence of interest in the examination of rural life by social theorists and researchers when the discipline of sociology was being formalized and codified in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gurley (2016) points to a strong urban bias among the major social theorists of that time, including Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, all of whom were preoccupied by the onset of rapid urbanization, largely the result of the Industrial Revolution. Gurley left out German philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel (1858-1918), whose life, times, and work are of interest to this author. This passage from his 1903 essay, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” is arguably typical of the kinds of analysis and literature that dominated the day. In this essay, Simmel explores the growing alienation felt by the individual in large urban settings as the result of societal and market forces:
What is essential here as regards the economic-psychological aspect of the problem is that in less advanced cultures production was for the customer who ordered the product so that the producer and the purchaser knew one another. The modern city, however, is supplied almost exclusively by production for the market, that is, for entirely unknown purchasers who never appear in the actual field of vision of the producers themselves. Thereby, the interests of each party acquire a relentless matter-of-factness, and its rationally calculated economic egoism need not fear any divergence from its set path because of the imponderability of personal relationships. This is all the more the case in the money economy which dominates the metropolis in which the last remnants of domestic production and direct barter of goods have been eradicated and in which the amount of production on direct personal order is reduced daily. Furthermore, this psychological intellectualistic attitude and the money economy are in such close integration that no one is able to say whether it was the former that effected the latter or vice versa. (Bridge and Watson, eds., 2002 [Simmel, 1903], pp. 12-13)
The major theorists named so far were all European – Marx, Weber, and Simmel were German, and Durkheim was French. Their collective focus on rapid urbanization throughout Europe in the shadow of the Industrial Revolution, in turn, came to have a strong influence on scholars here in the United States as American sociology was starting to come together. Gurley (2016) goes on to note that the University of Chicago, which became a powerhouse for sociological study in the 1920s and 30s, “…centered nearly exclusively on the metropolis” (pp.590-591), and, “…utilized the city of Chicago as a laboratory for the development of the discipline” (p. 591).

Despite the initial surge of urban focus in sociology, though, Gurley (2016) notes, quoting Lobao, “…from 1890 to 1920, there arose a ‘small,’ but ‘vibrant’ contingent of rural sociologists at Penn State, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Kentucky, Cornell University, Ohio State University, and University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana” (Gurley, 2016, p. 592; Lobao, 2015, quoted in Gurley, 2016, p. 592). However, this apparently was not enough to propel rural concerns into the mainstream, causing them to forever lie at the margins (Gurley, 2016). As time went on, many of these rural research departments were merged into other departments, schools, and colleges, their once-blatantly apparent names and focuses tucked away from public view (Gurley, 2016).

Combined, all of these factors – not having a clear definition of rural, the preoccupation of the founding theorists and researchers of sociology with urban concerns, and the tucking away of the few once-standalone rural sociology departments from the public eye, have contributed to many urban-dwellers not being aware that these issues – and people – exist. But they do exist, and the challenges are staggering. Wilson (2017) notes that, “The number of rural Americans living in poverty has skyrocketed in recent years amidst an economic evolution that has cost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing and mining jobs” (para. 1). He continues by explaining that even though urban centers have also seen an increase in poverty rates, these rates are lower by comparison, and these areas have typically seen faster recoveries. Wilson (2017) also makes this noteworthy distinction, explaining, “The difference is that the increase in poverty in urban counties happened almost entirely during and after the recession. The increase in poverty in rural counties began around the turn of the century, and has been exacerbated by the recession” (para. 3). In any case, we know that, “At the turn of the century, about 1 in 5 rural counties had a poverty rate higher than 20 percent. Today, about one in three rural counties – 657 counties – have similarly high rates of poverty…” (Wilson, 2017, para. 6).

Finally, the overall problem of rural poverty is exacerbated by three additional factors: the phenomenon of urban normativity; a misbelief that the cost of living is lower in rural areas; and even something as seemingly minute as our collective word usage when going about our daily lives. Urban normativity is the presumption that what is urban is somehow normal, or the norm, while anything other than the urban is seen as odd, or out of the mainstream; out of place (L. Lobao, personal communication, March 7, 2018; J. Zimmerman, personal communication, March 16, 2018). Because of this urban normativity, “We take policies and programs with an urban frame of reference and impose them on rural populations” (J. Zimmerman, personal communication, March 16, 2018). Examples of this include urban standards often being imposed on rural housing markets that usually end up not working well, and the consumer price index being based solely on urban data (J. Zimmerman, personal communication, March 16, 2018). There is also a widely-held assumption that the cost of living in rural areas is substantially lower than in urban areas. This false narrative continually fuels a vicious cycle that has essentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in the sense that, because we as a society hold this belief, it translates into lower wages and lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement payments in these areas (J. Zimmerman, personal communication, March 16, 2018). Finally, our daily word usage can certainly play a role. As Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman, a rural sociologist with the University of Kentucky, explained to this author during a conversation, “When we talk about rural poverty and we say something like, ‘Many are left behind,’ we’re describing a system fault. The system left people behind. But when we say, ‘Many are lagging behind,’ we’re implying that it’s their own fault. They just don’t want to catch up” (personal communication, March 16, 2018).

Interviews with Three Professionals Knowledgeable on the Subject

In order to further deepen this author’s understanding on the subject of rural poverty, he sought to interview at least two practitioners in the field for this study. In the end, he was able to secure interviews with three, all conducted by e-mail.

Two of the interviewees, Elizabeth Knapp and Cecilia Dever, are from Wisconsin. Ms. Knapp serves as manager of Twin Oaks Shelter for the Homeless in Darien, Wisconsin, while Ms. Dever serves as executive director of Community Action, Inc., which, among other programs and resources, runs the Twin Oaks facility. Ms. Knapp and Ms. Dever were asked the same set of questions, and this author received their respective replies on November 1, 2017. In her interview responses, Ms. Dever includes 11 myths about poverty that Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman, a professor of rural sociology at the University of Kentucky (University of Kentucky, College of Arts and Sciences, n.d.), had compiled. In turn, Dever states that she compiled all 11 myths from two separate articles written by Zimmerman (C. Dever, personal communication, November 1, 2017), the titles of which are unknown to this author.

The third interviewee is Ginny Tillman. Ms. Tillman, who serves as the office manager for the Jonesboro, Arkansas branch of Ag Resource Management, is also a distant cousin of this author’s. She is in the business of crop insurance and loans for farmers, and this author looked to her for her expertise in rural economic and social life. Asked a different set of questions, this author received Ms. Tillman’s responses on October 31, 2017.

All three interviews appear at the end of the paper in their entirety as appendices A, B, and C. Following is the set of questions posed to both Ms. Knapp and Ms. Dever. Immediately following this set of questions are the questions posed to Ms. Tillman.

1) What would you identify as similarities between rural poverty and urban poverty?
2) And differences between the two?
3) If you were able to describe a common profile for your clients, what does that profile look like? In other words, is there a “typical” client?
4) Do you often see clients returning?
5) What do you think are stereotypes associated with rural poverty, if any?
6) In your mind, what are some of the biggest challenges facing those living in a rural setting?
7) How do you experience being of service? What does that mean to you?
8) How do you define your service? Personally? As an organization?

1) Based on what you see in your everyday work, describe some of the key attributes of rural social and economic life.
2) What are maybe some stereotypes or over-generalizations associated with farming and the agricultural business?
3) Do you see improvements in economic diversification where you live and work, or is your area/region still largely dependent on agriculture as the primary economic activity?
4) In your mind, what are some of the biggest challenges facing those living in a rural setting?

Analysis of the Interviews and Alignment with the Literature
A number of similar responses can be gleaned between the interviewees, or one or more statements by one or more of the interviewees can be corroborated by the literature or past conversations that this author has had with others.

For starters, all three interviewees cite a lack of available resources as a major contributor to rural difficulties, with Knapp and Dever specifically naming transportation as one of these missing pieces (G. Tillman, personal communication, October 31, 2017; E. Knapp, personal communication, November 1, 2017; C. Dever, personal communication, November 1, 2017).

Tillman explaining that there is a myth or stereotype that farmers are wealthy corroborates conversations this author has had with others in the past who are, or were, farmers or members of farming families. There is a perception that farmers are wealthy because of their vast land and equipment holdings. The reality, however, as Tillman points out, is that these farming families are constantly living and operating under a seemingly never-ending cycle of loans (G. Tillman, personal communication, October 31, 2017).

Knapp, Gurley, and Zimmerman are on the same page in pointing out that, contrary to popular belief, it is not just singles or single mothers experiencing rural poverty, but many two-adult households and families, as well – many more than we as a society are perhaps led to believe (E. Knapp, personal communication, November 1, 2017; Gurley, 2016; Zimmerman, via C. Dever, n.d.).

Gurley (2016) and Zimmerman (via C. Dever, n.d.) are in agreement that the majority of those living in poverty, whether in a rural or an urban setting, are white. Waggoner (2018) further corroborates this, noting, “U.S. census figures show that the poverty rate among blacks was 22 percent in 2016, while it was almost 9 percent among whites. But in sheer numbers, almost 17.5 million whites are classified as living in poverty, compared to 8.7 million blacks” (p. 5A). Waggoner goes on to note that, overall, “The U.S. poverty rate was almost 13 percent in 2016” (p. 5A).

Gurley (2016) and Zimmerman (via C. Dever, n.d.) are also in agreement that rural areas experience higher rates of poverty than urban environments on a consistent basis. This is further confirmed by Wilson (2017). To this point Gurley (2016) notes, citing United States Department of Agriculture statistics, “…since the 1950s, Americans living in non-metropolitan counties have had a higher rate of poverty than those living in metropolitan areas. The poverty rate among rural-dwelling Americans is 3 percent higher than it is among urban-dwellers” (p. 590). The difference is even more startling in the South. She continues on, “In the South, the poorest region of the country, the rural-urban discrepancy is greatest – around 8 percent higher in non-metro areas than metro areas (USDA-ERS 2015)” (Gurley, 2016, p. 590).

Finally, Gurley (2016) and Zimmerman (via C. Dever, n.d.) also appear to find agreement in the original intention, understanding, and design of federal poverty programs to provide temporary assistance, rather than, what is often presumed these days by many, to be a means to move recipients out of poverty. One of these programs, perhaps the largest and most well-known, “food stamps,” has its roots in rural America. Gurley (2016) reminds us that,
…many people today do not realize that “food stamps,” a critical component of the urban social safety net, and initially a part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” were originally a farm subsidy intended specifically for rural communities. As a program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food Stamp Act of 1964 was drafted in order to aid agrarian communities, and in many ways to ameliorate rampant poverty in Appalachia and the Deep South. It was able to survive for decades in Congress based on support from a coalition of northern Democrats who favored the welfare state and southern Democrats who regarded food stamps as a method of solving the problem of surplus agricultural production. (pp. 596-597)
Further Discussion and Analysis

The urban-rural conundrum, and attempting to solve the issue of rural poverty

For this author, the solution, or solutions, to easing rural poverty, pose an interesting puzzle, one that he has been grappling with for nearly a year now. When we as a society think of an urban environment, we think of a densely-populated area with a plethora of resources – employment, housing, food, transportation, services, manufactured goods – readily available to the population there. Rural, then, is the antithesis of urban. When we think of a rural setting, we as a society understand it to be a scarcely-populated area, with few resources scattered over a wide area. According to this logic, then, either those living in a rural setting should simply move to an urban environment, or we as a society should fill these rural areas in with cities. But we know that urban areas are grappling with poverty, as well, and that filling rural areas in with cities and all of the resources that come with them is simply impractical – and even pointless to some degree, since we have established that urban poverty exists, as well. Furthermore, as Dr. Linda M. Lobao explains,
Characteristics of the rural population tend to explain the cause of rural poverty. If you moved the rural population to an urban environment, they’d still have large poverty rates, and they would stand out as different from the urban population. One potential key advantage: White men may have the upper hand when it comes to job prospects if you moved them from a rural environment to an urban setting, but they’ll lag behind in education. (L. Lobao, personal communication, March 7, 2018)
What then, is the solution, or solutions, to this challenge?

Businesses and organizations wanting to voluntarily come to a rural environment from an urban one is difficult to impossible to imagine. The incentive for businesses and organizations of all types to want to operate in an urban environment is resources readily available and in close proximity – workers, customers, suppliers, transportation, reliable internet and power grid, and so on. With resources scarce and population scattered widely, a move to a rural area is not attractive from a business standpoint. Likewise, businesses and organizations springing up organically in these rural areas is nearly impossible to imagine, as well, for the same exact reason – there are few to no resources available. If it were easy to start and maintain a business in a rural area, more of this would have been done a long time ago, and this discussion would take on a different form today.

Solving, or at least greatly easing, rural poverty, is going to require a robust package of incentives and strategies coming from different sources working in concert, and some of these ideas have already been utilized in the past, to some success.

For starters, at the local, state, and federal government levels, tax and financing incentives could be offered to businesses for relocating, or starting in, rural areas. Orejel (2017), an assistant professor in history at Wilmington College, writing for Dissent Magazine, discusses the case of Appanoose County, Iowa. This county experienced tremendous economic growth in the 1960s and 70s in large part due to various tax and financial incentives being offered, including, among other tradeoffs to further entice businesses, the updating of utilities and the resurfacing of roads. He goes on to note that, “…Appanoose County acquired six major new industries, including a branch plant of Union Carbide, and added close to 1,900 new industrial jobs – when the total county population numbered only around 15,000” (Orejel, 2017, para. 8). It should be noted, though, that these types of incentive packages are not without some inherent risks, and so it is important to structure deals like these as carefully as possible. Dr. Linda M. Lobao cautions, “Tax abatements may work in the short term, but they ultimately only cause jobs to keep moving around. Here in the Columbus [Ohio] area, companies keep moving around from suburb to suburb” (L. Lobao, personal communication, March 7, 2018).

Governments, along with industry, should also continue to focus on expanding broadband internet access to rural areas as a means to bolster educational and business opportunities. Progress is certainly being made, but there remains room for improvement. Perrin (2017), writing for the Pew Research Center, notes that, “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of rural Americans say they have a broadband internet connection at home, up from about a third (35%) in 2007…” and that, “Rural Americans are now 10 percentage points less likely than Americans overall to have home broadband; in 2007, there was a 16-point gap between rural Americans (35%) and all U.S. adults (51%) on this question” (Perrin, 2017, para. 2). The Federal Communications Commission, through a Web site hosted at, offers suggestions and resources for rural communities seeking to build and present a business case to internet companies for why they should consider expanding operations into those communities (, n.d.).

In this author’s hometown of Muskego, Wisconsin, a rural-urban interface – in other words, a suburban community where urban and rural meet (J. Zimmerman, personal communication, March 16, 2018), some work remains on internet access. This author currently serves as president of Muskego’s library board, and the library has a number of portable internet hotspot devices that can be loaned out to patrons. An immensely popular item, these mobile hotspots are often loaned out to students and others in the rural parts of the city where internet access is limited to virtually nonexistent. It is said that currently, according to Dr. Kelly Thompson, superintendent of the Muskego-Norway School District, 91% of district students have access to consistent, high-speed internet access (K. Thompson, personal communication, March 21, 2018). This author, who also serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, is also aware of a growing number of complaints by residents and small business owners where it concerns available options for internet service providers. That this author is aware of, there are only two major providers in the area, and neither company seems interested in wanting to invest any more into their respective infrastructures here in Muskego, despite it arguably being in their best interests to do so. Muskego, overall, is a wealthy community, and it is currently experiencing an economic boom, with many new businesses opening shop; new subdivisions and condominium developments springing up; and a new middle school under construction.

Like issues of accessibility in regard to internet access, improving landline service in rural areas should also be a priority of governments and industry. Landlines in rural areas typically only allow access within one’s own county, yet half of rural residents work in another county (J. Zimmerman, personal communication, March 16, 2018). The current situation greatly hampers the ability to provide or receive a wide-ranging variety of communications, ranging anywhere from emergency messages of any type to work and business opportunities, and from being able to converse with family and friends in another county to making simple inquires of any kind.

In higher education, coming back to a concern expressed in Gurley’s (2016) work, colleges and universities could create or return to standalone research departments devoted solely to rural life. There can be no doubt that the academy over the years has contributed to this unfortunate “sweep it under the rug” mentality. In Wisconsin, specifically, there is grave concern over what the future may hold for the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Cooperative Extension program, which has served as a long-time partner to rural communities through trusted advice, educational programming, and vital connections to the state’s university system. The Cooperative Extension program, which maintains local offices in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, will now be overseen by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This decision, approved by the UW System Board of Regents in a 16-2 vote on November 9, 2017, is part of a broader restructuring of the system that also merges the system’s two-year schools into its four-year institutions. The concern is that the Cooperative Extension program being brought under the oversight of the state’s flagship university, UW-Madison, could potentially pit the two against each other over critical funds and other resources (Barrett, 2017; Kremer, 2017; Wisconsin Public Radio Staff and the Associated Press, 2017). This decision comes at a worrisome time, particularly for family farms in the state. In its Money section on January 30, 2018, the newspaper USA Today, citing a report by Wisconsin Public Radio, noted that, in 2017, Wisconsin’s federal Western District saw 28 farm bankruptcies. This was the highest number of such bankruptcies across the United States (USA Today staff, 2018).

Speaking on the UW-Extension’s offerings more broadly, this author can attest to their value, most recently in his visit to the Realtors Home & Garden Show at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds in West Allis, Wisconsin on March 24, 2018. The UW-Extension had a booth at the show and provided visitors with helpful information on subjects like gardening and the best planting times for certain fruits and vegetables. A number of brochures and other handouts were available for the taking, and several Extension staff members were on hand to answer questions and provide consultation.

Service clubs throughout the country can devote more of their time, attention, and resources to rural concerns. Because many members of these service clubs hail from large cities and suburban areas, there’s somewhat of a double-benefit here: the rural areas benefit economically from this added attention and service, while the urban-dwelling service club members advance their education and awareness on the issue so that it is discussed and reflected upon more in their own communities.

From a business and leadership development standpoint, Dr. Linda M. Lobao asks some thought-provoking questions: “How can you build human capital? Promote self-development? Have kids graduate from college and then come back to their hometown? Market their towns as tourist attractions with bed and breakfast establishments, theaters, art galleries, etc. Empower local people?” (L. Lobao, personal communication, March 7, 2018). While serious food for thought and exciting potential to contemplate, we know that there is currently an uphill battle in this realm. Wilson (2017) explains:
Demographers and economists point to two self-reinforcing trends. Declines in traditional blue-collar jobs that rural America long relied upon have crippled dominant industries, while younger workers, especially those with higher levels of education, have fled rural areas, robbing their communities of the next generation of new business owners. (para. 8)
Time and continued effort will tell if these trends can be reversed.

Finally, we as a society can continue to educate both ourselves and one another about rural poverty and rural life. We can begin by recognizing the pervasiveness of urban normativity, and by realizing that the simplest word choices can create division and hence an “other.” As Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman encourages, “See the holistic system. Stop looking at urban and rural as separate. We all have rural ties. Urban areas need rural areas to exist. For lumber for homes. For food. For landfill space. For the most dangerous manufacturing processes” (personal communication, March 16, 2018).

Implications for Further Research

Opportunities for further inquiry into the problem are plentiful in both the quantitative and qualitative realms of research. This author feels that, largely due to time constraints, he only scratched the surface, so to speak, on the subject of rural poverty here. There is an abundance of room for more in-depth interviews, field observations, focus groups, and the compilation of statistics.

For this author, specifically, he would like to continue studying the subject beyond this initial paper, and work to identify ways in which he can take these newfound and future insights, and put them into service for the benefit of others. A good place to start this journey will be by revisiting Gurley’s (2016) work, as there is a plethora of supporting resources found throughout it, both academic and practitioner-oriented in nature, that this author has not yet had much of an opportunity to explore in deeper detail. Additionally, he would like to continue the dialogue with Dr. Linda M. Lobao and Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman, rural sociologists with Ohio State University and the University of Kentucky, respectively. This author enjoyed his conversations with these experts, and both provided him with several resources that he has yet to look into, as well. Ideas that this author is currently exploring to help bring this work into service for the benefit of others include seeking membership in the Rural Sociological Society; partnering with one or more established experts to have a version of this paper published in an academic journal; and designing a talk that can be presented to audiences, such as to local service clubs and business organizations, the local library, or this author’s campus community. With a diverse background that brings business and entrepreneurship, academic study, and public service to an intersection, this author is sincerely interested in continuing to work on this important puzzle that affects the lives of so many. 


Rural poverty is an issue that appears to be seldom discussed in research or in everyday life. With so many economic and societal challenges plaguing urban life, it can be easy for city dwellers to forget that rural environments – along with their inhabitants – even exist. As previously mentioned, this author was met with responses of surprise by one of his professors and several of his classmates when he mentioned in the summer of 2017 that he would like to take up researching the issue of rural poverty. Acknowledging here that this paper was met with time constraints, the issue is one that this author has developed a genuine interest in, and he would like to continue building his understanding of it, and sharing his findings and ideas for the benefit of others.


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Duncan, C. M. (2015). Worlds apart: Poverty and politics in rural America. [2nd ed.]. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Duncan, C. M. (1999). Worlds apart: Why poverty persists in rural America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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Federal Communications Commission. (n.d.). Broadband in rural areas. Retrieved from

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Sheets, C. (2017, December 8). UN poverty official touring Alabama’s Black Belt: ‘I haven’t seen this’ in the First World. Retrieved from

Staff. (2018, January 30). Money section, state-by-state briefing, p. 6B. USA Today.

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Appendix A: Interview with Elizabeth Knapp, manager of Twin Oaks Shelter for the Homeless in Darien, Wisconsin

What would you identify as similarities between rural poverty and urban poverty?

Many families are in poverty, not just singles. There is generational homelessness.

And differences between the two?

More access to resources in an urban setting (i.e. public transportation to get to and from appointments and not as spread apart).

If you were able to describe a common profile for your clients, what does that profile look like? In other words, is there a “typical” client?

A person at or below 30% of the county median income (CMI). At Twin Oaks in the last year (November 1, 2016 to October 31, 2017), almost 35% have domestic violence in their past.

Do you often see clients returning?

Respondent did not answer.

What do you think are stereotypes associated with rural poverty, if any?

Respondent did not answer.

In your mind, what are some of the biggest challenges facing those living in a rural setting?

Not having enough transportation options. Not enough housing options. Not enough homeless shelters.

How do you experience being of service? What does that mean to you?

Respondent did not answer.

How do you define your service? Personally? As an organization?

Respondent did not answer.

Appendix B: Interview with Cecilia Dever, executive director of Community Action, Inc., which, among other programs and resources, runs the Twin Oaks Shelter for the Homeless in Darien, Wisconsin

What would you identify as similarities between rural poverty and urban poverty?

I would say that both urban and rural poverty consist of a lack of means. Unable to adequately support yourself and/or your family.

And differences between the two?

There most likely would be more resources or support in urban areas. There may be transportation issues in rural areas and it would most likely be less access to resources.

If you were able to describe a common profile for your clients, what does that profile look like? In other words, is there a “typical” client?

I do not believe that there is a typical client. Each person comes with their unique struggles and barriers to overcome. The one consistency at Community Action is that they must have the want and determination to overcome their obstacles in order to be successful.

Do you often see clients returning?

It varies.

What do you think are stereotypes associated with rural poverty, if any?

I like this document regarding myths and rural poverty. Julie N. Zimmerman compiled eleven myths about poverty. I’ve compiled all eleven here from two separate articles. Much of this evolved around welfare reform and what to do about it. Her last contact info is as follows:
Department of Community and Leadership Development
500 Garrigus
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40546-0215

Myth 1: The majority of the poor live in inner-city neighborhoods.

While poverty rates are highest in inner cities, only 23 percent of those in poverty live there. Overall, poverty rates in rural areas have been and continue to be consistently higher than those found in urban areas, which includes inner cities. In this case, rural areas have the second highest poverty rates of 16.3 percent when compared to urban areas (RSS Task Force 1993:32). In 1990, there were 9 million people in rural areas living in poverty; nearly one in five rural residents. In 1993, in the North Central region, the rural poverty rate stood at 13.6 percent, whereas the poverty rate for urban areas was only 11.4 percent.

Myth 2: Poverty in rural areas looks much like that found in urban areas.

While poverty exists in both urban and rural areas, the characteristics of those living in poverty in these two places are distinctly different. Not only do rural areas have consistently higher rates of poverty than urban places, but those living in poverty in rural areas are more likely to be white and living in two-adult households. Rural areas also have higher rates of persistent poverty and they are dispersed over a larger geographic area. Still, compared to their urban counterparts, those living in poverty in rural areas are more likely to be working.

Myth 3: The poor live off government welfare.

Given the public debates over welfare reform, one would assume that this was indeed the case. However, the majority of those living in poverty do not receive government welfare assistance. Such assistance accounts for only one-quarter of the income of adults living in poverty (O'Hare 1996). For rural areas, participation rates in social service programs are even lower.

Myth 4: Homelessness is an urban problem.

Homelessness in rural areas is often overlooked because it is thought of as an urban issue. An accurate count of the homeless is difficult if not impossible. Estimates of the rural homeless vary from 6.9 percent (Census 1992) to 18 percent (NRHA 1996:3) of the total homeless population. As shelters are a rarity in rural areas, those without a fixed place of residence find shelter in places such as doubling-up with other families, living in abandoned homes, or living in their vehicles at camping facilities. Research suggests that the characteristics of the homeless in rural areas differ from those in urban areas. For example, they are more likely to be white, more likely to be working, and more likely to be two-parent families (Wright and Wright, forthcoming).

Myth 5: Poor families are trapped in a cycle of poverty that few escape.

The population of individuals and households living in poverty is actually a dynamic group. For many, `spells' of poverty are temporary, lasting less than a few years (O'Hare 1996). On the other hand, rural areas have higher rates of persistent poverty than urban areas. Persistent poverty refers to places with poverty rates of 20 percent or more in each census 1960-1990. Persistent poverty tends to be found in particular regions such as Appalachia and the South. In the North Central region, areas of persistent poverty are located primarily in North Dakota, South Dakota and Missouri.

Myth 6: Most of the poor are single mothers and their children.

Single women with children are more likely to be living in poverty, as reflected by their high poverty rates in both rural and urban places. But, in terms of the number of households living in poverty, there are very nearly as many living in two adult households. Only 38 percent of those households living in poverty were single-mother households and 34 percent were in two-adult households. Of the remaining 28 percent, 22 percent either live alone or with non-relatives (O'Hare 1996). For rural areas both in our region and nationally, the percent of those in poverty living in two adult households is much higher. Nationally, 44.4 percent of those in poverty in rural areas in 1990 lived in married couple families (RSS Task Force 1993:32). For the North Central region, husband-wife family configurations comprised 42.3 percent of those in rural poverty in 1993.

Myth 7: The vast majority of the poor are African American or Hispanics.

In contrast to the myth, the majority of those living in poverty in both urban and rural areas are not minorities. Forty-eight percent of those living in poverty in America are white (O'Hare 1996). In 1990, 72.9 percent of those living in poverty in rural areas in the United States were white (RSS Task Force 1993:32). In the North Central region, the rural poor are even more likely to be white, comprising in 1993 more than 90 percent of those in rural poverty, with African Americans comprising 3.7 percent and Native Americans 2.9 percent.

Myth 8: Most people are poor because they do not want to work.

This is perhaps the most tenacious myth of all those discussed here. First of all, many of those living in poverty are not of working age. Many of the poor are elderly and even more are children (about 40 percent) or have a work disability. More importantly, many people living in poverty who are able to work are indeed already employed. Nationally, about 30 percent of the working-age population living in poverty in 1994 were already working (O'Hare 1996). For rural areas, this myth holds even less truth. Nationally, the majority of rural poor families have at least one member employed. For the North Central region in 1993, this also remains true. Of those living in poverty in rural areas, 35.5 percent of families had at least one person working at least part time or part year. Another 25.4 percent had one or more family members working full time-full year. Of the remaining families, almost 24 percent of the rural poor have no working-age family member. This category is predominantly the elderly.

Myth 9: Antipoverty programs are designed to reduce poverty.

A major criticism of federal programs has been that they are not moving people off of welfare. However, this position also assumes that these programs were designed to do this. Until recently, federal poverty programs were designed as a safety net, not as programs to assist individuals out of poverty.

Myth 10: Rural equals agriculture.

Confounding the distance between myth and reality regarding poverty in rural areas is that for many, rural is synonymous with agriculture and farms. Deeply embedded in our nation's history is the image of rural areas as a patchwork of family farms built around tranquil communities. Today, less than 10 percent of the rural population lives on farms and people in rural areas are engaged in a wide range of activities.

In 1992, only 7.6 percent of rural employment was in farming (ERS/USDA 1995:5). Service employment, on the other hand, accounted for 50.6 percent and has experienced the greatest growth over the past two decades. Counties which derive 20 percent or more or their earned income from farming are concentrated in the Great Plains states. However, even in these areas, nonfarm employment still accounts for nearly 80 percent of jobs in the area (ERS/USDA 1995:12).

Myth 11: Poverty rates are particularly low in the Midwest compared to other regions.

In actuality, poverty in the rural North Central region is more likely to be hidden than lower in incidence. Only the South, with 51.2 percent of all rural poverty, has more individuals living in poverty in rural areas. The North Central region is home to 25.8 percent of all people living in poverty in rural areas. As Flora (1992) points out, characteristics such as norms against conspicuous consumption, the ideology that hard work will automatically result in financial growth, and the prevailing view that "we're all just folks" combine to hide what can be large differences in income and wealth within communities.
In your mind, what are some of the biggest challenges facing those living in a rural setting?

Finding fair market adequate homes in safe neighborhoods is a big issue.

How do you experience being of service? What does that mean to you?

Support and encouragement.

How do you define your service? Personally? As an organization?

We assist with removing barriers which will assist an individual to become more self-sufficient.

Appendix C: Interview with Ginny Tillman, office manager, Jonesboro, Arkansas branch of Ag Resource Management 

Based on what you see in your everyday work, describe some of the key attributes of rural social and economic life.

a. Small communities. Typically, in rural areas, the population is low and occupations are scarce. With little diversity, it’s hard to transition from one job field to another.
b. Intimate relationships. In smaller communities, people are more connected. Essentially, everyone knows everyone due to generation after generation living there.
c. Agriculture is a main occupation. Generally, in rural areas, like northeast Arkansas, farming or anything related to agriculture is a very popular occupation.
d. The importance of continuing a family operation. In a rural area, there is a lot of family operations that have been kept up over generations. Essentially, your family dictates your future. Example, farming for generations and generations, running a small convenient store for years.

What are maybe some stereotypes or over-generalizations associated with farming and the agricultural business?

a. Farmers are rich. Typically, most farmers are living one crop loan to the next, especially with the markets we’ve had the last few years.
b. Farming is easy. Farming is extremely unpredictable and extremely expensive. Farming is not something that you just wake up and decide to do one morning. It takes experience and time to master the art of running a smooth and successful farming operation.

Do you see improvements in economic diversification where you live and work, or is your area/region still largely dependent on agriculture as the primary economic activity?

a. Agriculture is still a primary economic activity. Although Jonesboro is a fairly large town, all the surrounding areas are dependent on farming to provide for their families. It’s just a way of life here, and that’s all some people know.

In your mind, what are some of the biggest challenges facing those living in a rural setting?

a. Lack of jobs and diversification.
b. Lack of resources.