Change in U.S. Small Town Community Capitals, 1980–2010

Lori M. Hunter, Catherine B. Talbot, Dylan Shane Connor, Miriam Counterman, Johannes H. Uhl, Myron P. Gutmann, Stefan Leyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The county scale has thus far dominated rural demographic research—this descriptive profile of small town America is unique with its place-based lens. Another important extension is the nationwide application of the Community Capitals Framework which builds on the body of research examining capitals within case studies focused on one or more communities. Here, we examine place-based “community capitals” at the national scale through novel integration of data from a wide variety of sources. The goal is to identify tiny town socioeconomic and demographic patterns of change—or trajectories—over the past several decades—and contrast remote small towns with those proximate to metropolitan areas. Results reveal both commonalities and distinctions. Instead of differences in trends across time, the analyses suggest that what differs are the more general profiles of small places as contrasted with national data. For example, regardless of metro proximity, small town America has lower levels of human and financial capital. Still, distinction also appears in that rural population growth has focused on high-amenity regions, bringing some increases in community capitals but potentially also exacerbating inequalities. In all, the analyses presented here offer an important foundation for necessary work at the place scale to improve understanding of the nuances inherent in population shifts, and their implications, within rural communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-940
Number of pages28
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Community capitals
  • Demography
  • Population
  • Rural
  • Tiny towns
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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