Standard Article

Rural migration and poverty, United States

Migration A–Z


  1. Katherine J. Curtis

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm462

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Curtis, K. J. 2013. Rural migration and poverty, United States. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Despite having one of the highest average incomes in the industrialized world, the United States has the highest rate of poverty among developed nations (Smeeding et al. 2001; Iceland 2003). Throughout this essay, poverty refers to the official poverty threshold (Orshansky 1965). The measure is criticized for underestimating poverty in the general and metropolitan populations, and overestimating poverty among the nonmetropolitan population (Iceland 2005; Nelson & Short 2005). Still, most research on poverty continues to use the official measure. Of further concern is the uneven distribution of poverty across the United States. Poverty is highly clustered; places in poverty generally are near other places in poverty, while places with low poverty tend to be located near other places with low poverty (Beale & Gibbs 2006; Voss et al. 2006). This results in what are often called pockets of poverty which are distinct from other areas of the United States (Weinberg 1987). The uneven spatial distribution of poverty is persistent over time (Brown & Warner 1991; Beale 1993), tends to be located in rural areas (Tickamyer & Duncan 1990; Levernier et al. 2000; Weber et al. 2005), and is found in the Mississippi Delta, the Cotton Belt, southwestern borderlands, tribal reservations, and Appalachia.


  • American borderlands;
  • labor;
  • labor supply;
  • poverty;
  • farming