TitleRural Communities
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsSalamon, S, MacTavish, K
Book TitleInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
Pagination423 - 428
ISBN Number9780080449104

Rural communities are spatially, physically, and socially distinctive. Their small populations are spatially dispersed in the countryside. Residents typically share a culture, history, language, ethnicity, and regular face-to-face interactions. Settlement patterns reflect, and employment typically depends on extraction of raw materials in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, or other natural resources. Employment also is associated with recreation, tourism, or transportation support functions such as a stopping places on highways or railroads for refueling, food, or lodging. Rural community as a concept developed with nineteenth-century sociological theory to understand whether rapid industrialization and urbanization, and the vast migration from rural to urban places, entailed loss of community or new community forms. As environments, they are particularly good at providing social support for dependent groups, such as youth or elderly. They depend on voluntarism to function. Rural communities serve as icons for national identities while simultaneously deemed as provincial and ignorant. They lag behind cities on most indicators of well-being. Globalization negatively affected rural community economies worldwide by directly or indirectly causing population decline and economic erosion. Community development evolved as a mechanism for residents to act collectively to restore economic viability, improve quality of life, and empower themselves.