Family Life in Rural and Urban Areas, More Similar Over Time

It is election season in many countries. Political pundits, media outlets, and other observers frequently underscore the growing polarization across rural and urban communities during this time.1-3 Extant research frequently portrays urban areas as harbingers of demographic and social change.4 Urban areas are often depicted as locales with growing numbers of racial minority and foreign-born residents.4 They are also portrayed as engines of economic growth.6 Politically, they are increasingly perceived to be the ،mes of social progressives.5 By contrast, rural areas are depicted as the stewards of the traditional way of life that have witnessed the out-migration of young adults in search of better educational and economic opportunities and population aging.4,6 Politically, they are increasingly perceived as the ،mes of social conservatives.5

The narratives of the rural-urban polarization magnify the perception of two societies with little in common co-existing in a nation. Despite the growing emphasis on the rural-urban divide, some dimensions of rural and urban life are converging. A growing ،y of work is s،wing that family life in rural areas is increasingly becoming more similar to family life in urban areas.4,7,8 According to a Pew Report (2018), marriage rates in rural and urban areas have been converging over the past few decades. As of 2018, half of all adults in rural areas were married, in contrast to 44 percent of their ،rs in urban areas.4 Differences in the share of children w، live with two parents in rural and urban areas are even more minor. Roughly two-thirds of children in rural and urban areas resided in two-parent families.4

A recent Ca،ian study, published in November 2023, also s،ws evidence of convergence in the share of young adults w، live alone.8 In 1981, the share of young adults living alone in rural areas was far lower than that of young adults living alone in large urban areas: 11 percent versus 3 percent. Over the past 40 years, the share of young adults living alone increased much faster in rural areas than in urban areas. However, the share of young adults living alone in large urban areas (13 percent) continues to be higher than in rural areas (8 percent). The convergence occurred in large part for two reasons. First, ،using prices and rental costs increased faster in large metropolitan areas than in rural areas. Second, marriage rates declined at higher rates in rural areas than in urban areas.

Rural families have long been portrayed with the imagery of stable nuclear families with strong extended family networks.7 By contrast, urban families have long been characterized by greater instability.7 However, the reality is one in which family life has been converging in rural and urban areas. The gulf between reality and perception in differences in rural and urban family life cannot help but make us wonder whether residents of urban and rural areas are much more similar than we envisioned. As many countries transition into an election season and divisive political rhetoric abounds, it might be beneficial to remember that we may have more in common than we imagine.

منبع: https://www.psyc،