Somewhere in the Middle: Non-Amenity Economies in a Post-Industrial American West

Authors: Cherilyn Ashmead*, Humboldt State University, Erin C. Kelly, Humboldt State University, Mark D.O. Adams, United States Forest Service
Topics: Rural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: New West, Amenity Migration, Hispanic Migration, Rural United States, Location Quotients
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 4
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
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As the rural United States adapts to post-industrial economies, researchers are finding changes in terms of who lives there and what they do for work. Some researchers describe the shifting rural West as a “New West”. Many New West studies concentrate on trends where recreation tourism and amenity migration are replacing natural-resource dependent economies and communities are experiencing increases in ex-urban migrants and retirees. While much research has focused on the amenity model of economic transition, we focus on economic transition and demographic change in a relatively understudied region in Eastern Oregon and Northeastern California; an area with high proportions of public land, yet with fewer amenity draws. Using data from the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and National Center for Education Statistics, we type counties based on a combination of public land and level of dependence on the manufacturing sector. Using location quotients and census mapping, we explore changing trends in economic, demographic, and socioeconomic well-being among the counties. We find that county types have followed different trajectories and fall on a scale of thriving to suffering. Significant differences among groups are found predominantly in residents that identify as Non-White Hispanic and Spanish speaking households. This research contributes to conversations on social and economic change within the West and offers a glimpse into a region that is largely not following an amenity migration pattern of economic adaptation.

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