Rurality has been popping up in a few different places in my life recently. I have been talking with a colleague about building some course materials on rural anthropology and sociology, my
recently-submitted platform for the upcoming Society for Historical Archaeology’s Board of Directors elections emphasized outreach with rural communities, and I live in and work in south Arkansas… look out the window… it’s rural.
But, if I am going to talk about working in rural areas, I wanted to know how rural territory is, and, because I am curious, how rural my station territory is in comparison with the other stations in the Arkansas Archeological Survey system. Because I am me, I threw some GIS at it.
I downloaded a shapefile of urban areas from the U.S. Census Bureau, who define such things, and did some simple statistics in ArcMap.
|Station||Total Area (sq mi)||Urban Area (sq mi)||Percent Urban Area|
So, we’re the fourth largest territory, but the second most rural behind UAM. Of course, this is just land mass, which was the easiest to calculate with the given files at hand. I pulled populations for the SAU territory, and we’re 58% rural, well above the 42% that is the state average and 19.3% that is the national average. I don’t have specifics for the rest of the state, as that was going to be a bigger data mining operation.
Why does this matter? Comparing the SAU territory to others is pretty much a just-so story, but in the larger scope, all of our stations work with primarily rural territories in a state that has a rural population twice the national average. That creates a different working context than our colleagues on the coasts (East, West, and Gulf). Somewhere, Robert Earl Keen’s “Out Here in the Middle” is playing in the background…