This chapter describes how rural society has undergone a fundamental restructuring due to diminishing numbers of rural residents between 1950 and 1980, from 15.3 percent to being only 2 percent of the total United States population. As farms consolidated, fewer workers were needed to produce the same or more agricultural products, and rural residents were lured by nonfarm opportunities in urban America. A decline in farm family size also contributed to shrinking rural populations. These trends meant fewer families with children to fill country schools or customers to patronize rural businesses. When school systems consolidated, churches merged, or village businesses closed, rural communities lost crucial integrating institutions. Under these same economic and social circumstances some Midwestern rural communities maintained vitality while others deteriorated.
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