Rurality represents a condition associated with residence in a rural area. Because rural in contrast to urban is associated with the attributes of a place, agricultural economists measure relative rurality using four dimensions: population, population density, extent of urbanized area, and distance to the nearest metro area.[1] These dimensions help identify what a rural place is, but do not determine whether rurality is beneficial or detrimental in terms of quality of life, and what the real differences are in lifestyle between rurality and urbanity. Are rurality and urbanity characterized by different values or culture?

As a first step toward answering these questions, we turn to sociologists. Jollivet and Mendras noted that the structuring of rural society is different from urban society in that rural communities are characterized by mutual acquaintance and interdependence between individuals.[2] Rural life has allegedly changed over time given greater diversity of occupation and greater contact with urban environs through mobility and media. Yet has rural life changed that much?

I notice in Franklin County, where I live, that people take the time (make the time) to engage in casual conversation when they meet. People do not simply nod or acknowledge one another with a quick hello. Rather people stop to talk, at least for a few minutes. Frequently the talk is about the weather. Speaking briefly about the weather, whether it is good or bad, no matter the season, is almost obligatory, even in encounters with strangers.

In a city, this type of small talk occurs much less often. Does friendly conversation occur more frequently in rural settings because individuals are more likely to know the other people they encounter when doing routine errands, such as grocery shopping or dropping kids off at school? Do discussions of the weather arise in part from more time spent outside and in contact with land? Whatever the causes, the differences are apparent. We start this series of blog posts (and end this initial offering) with the following question: is urban anonymity preferable to rural interconnectedness? What are the benefits of one over the other?

[1] Waldorf, B. S., & Kim, A. (2015). Defining and Measuring Rurality in the US: From Typologies to Continuous Indices. Retrieved from

[2] Jollivet, Marcel et Henri Mendras eds. — 1971, Les collectivités rurales françaises. Tome 1 : Étude comparative du changement social. Paris, Armand Colin.

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