A new study finds that worries about jobs and the economy far outstrip other concerns in rural Minnesota.
The Blandin Foundation today released the results of its yearly study on rural Minnesota, called “Rural Pulse,” in which it found that 58 percent of rural Minnesotans say there are insufficient local job opportunities that offer a living wage.
“Rural Pulse” was begun in 1998 to gauge the opinions of rural Minnesotans. This year, more than 1,000 surveys were collected in March from people living in communities of fewer than 35,000 residents.
New this year is a partnership between Blandin and the Minnesota Community Foundation to include responses from the seven-county metro area and people living in Duluth, Moorhead, St. Cloud, Mankato and Rochester.
Critical community issues
The need for high-quality jobs continues to be the top priority for 36 percent of rural Minnesotans — more than twice as important as education to them. Urban Minnesotans also consider attracting new jobs to be a top priority.
The survey asked respondents if their local economy had improved over the last year. Among rural residents, half thought it stayed the same, 22 percent thought it improved and 20 percent thought it worsened. However, urban Minnesotans are nearly twice as likely (40 percent metro, 22 percent rural) to feel the economy has improved over the past year.
Minnesotans feel good about their quality of life. Nearly seven in 10 rural residents said the quality of life will improve over the next five years. That percentage jumped to 83 percent for urban Minnesotans.
“Minnesotans across the board remain very optimistic about their futures,” Blandin Foundation President Kathleen Annette said in a statement. “Threatening optimism, however, are very real concerns about the economy. Economic recovery still is out of reach for too many Minnesotans.”
Most rural Minnesotans — three out of four — said they believe their community is a vibrant place to live and work, a number that jumped to 85 percent for urban residents. An even greater number of rural residents (84 percent) believe their community is strong, resilient and able to recover from difficult situations. That number again jumped for urban respondents, to 92 percent.
Rural residents were asked how well they believe their community handles several local issues. The most highly rated were environmental stewardship, crime control, services for the elderly, education, improving access to technology and residential housing. They gave the lowest community ratings for attracting new businesses that provide ample living-wage jobs.
One-third of rural Minnesotans said their household income has increased over the past year, while 21 percent say they saw a decrease in wages.
The survey also looked at migration and found that 15 percent of rural Minnesotans have considered leaving their community for a metro area within the past two years. Of those, 49 percent said it would be to pursue job opportunities. Meanwhile, 76 percent of urban residents said they’d leave the city for a better quality of life.
Half of rural residents believe their community’s ethnic or racial makeup has become more diverse over the past five years. And while there is belief that diversity is increasing, 18 percent did not feel their community is welcoming to people of varying backgrounds and perspectives. Of course, that means 82 percent said they feel their community is inviting.
Minnesota remains mostly white. Nine in 10 rural respondents were Caucasian. Other ethnicities included Hispanic and American Indian (2 percent each), African-American (1 percent), Asian (less than 1 percent), and 1 percent other nationalities. Another 1 percent considered themselves multicultural, and 1 percent did not provide information.