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Abstract Students living in rural areas of the United States exhibit lower levels of educational achievement and a higher likelihood of dropping out of high school than do their nonrural counterparts. In this paper we extend the literature by offering a framework in which resources influencing achievement/attainment are viewed as embedded in, and varying across, rural and nonrural places because of differences in structures of local opportunity. We draw from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey and the Common Core of Data, and employ hierarchical linear and hierarchical logistic modeling techniques to test our ideas. Rural adolescents are disadvantaged in regard to those family and school resources which are conducive to educational success. These resources translate into important educational investments at both family and school levels, and explain rural deficits in both attainment and standardized achievement. We discuss the implications of our findings for analyses of rural deprivation and inequality specifically, and for educational processes and the spatial patterning of stratification in general.