Rural America is facing an existential crisis. As cities continue to grow and prosper, small towns are shrinking. That fundamental divide played itself out in the recent presidential election.
Consider this shocking chart produced by the Brookings Institution. It shows that, in 2000, George W. Bush won 2,397 counties (compared to Al Gore’s 659), and those counties represented 46% of America’s GDP. Fast forward to 2016. Donald Trump won an even larger share: 2,584 counties (compared to Hillary Clinton’s 472). Yet, counties that voted for Trump accounted for only 36% of the nation’s GDP. Since most Bush counties also voted for Trump, that means — in a span of just 16 years — economic productivity shifted by 10 percentage points, away from small town America and toward the big cities.