Hollywood movies often paint small town and rural America as idyllic, tight-knit communities where few people move in or out, and a new face in town—like Kevin Bacon’s surly mug in the film Footloose—is enough to really get folks talking. If your impressions of rural life are based on 80s movie musicals, though, it’s probably time to update those perceptions.
A new study conducted by Andrea Beesley for the REL Central—the federally funded education laboratory that McREL administers for the federal Institute of Education Sciences—has found that rural areas are actually places of high mobility, often higher than suburban or urban areas.
Research shows that, for a variety of reasons, highly mobile students tend to have lower achievement, higher dropout rates and be the subject of more frequent disciplinary action. To make matters worse, rural schools often have smaller staffs and fewer financial resources, making it difficult for them to meet the needs of highly mobile students.
The study, which calculated student mobility percentages by locale (city, suburb, town, and rural) in five states (Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming) found that:
- Districts with extremely high student mobility were often rural, had higher than average shares of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and were on or near American Indian reservations.
- In Wyoming, rural locales had higher mobility than town or city locales.
- In North Dakota, mobility rates were higher in both towns and rural areas than in cities and suburbs.
Bryan Goodwin is McREL’s Vice President of Communications.