If Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sometimes seem like they’re talking about two different Americas, there’s a reason: Their voting bases pretty much live in two different Americas. Clinton voters are concentrated in cities, in the nation’s denser and more diverse areas; Trump voters dominate rural areas and America’s wide-open landscapes.As a lot of political observers have noted, Trump’s grim-sounding language about a downcast America makes more sense if you realize just what’s happening for his rural base. And buried in the Census Bureau’s new report on income, poverty and health insurance, released Tuesday, are two piece of further bad news for rural America—trends that could keep shaping politics well after November’s election.
For Americans living in metropolitan areas, inflation-adjusted household income rose by 6 percent from 2014 to 2015—a robust bounce back from the recession. But for those living outside those areas—totaling more than 40 million Americans—household income actually fell by 2 percent. The numbers on poverty reveal a similar trend. The number of people in poverty in rural areas did fall by 800,000, but that doesn’t appear to be because people are escaping poverty: Instead, people are simply leaving. The rural population, in that span of time, declined by five million people. Taken in total, the rural poverty rate actually rose slightly, by 0.2 percentage points. In the rest of country, the poverty rate declined by 1.4 percentage points.
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