Social Landscapes of the Inter-Mountain West: A Comparison of ‘Old West’ and ‘New West’ Communities*


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    This project was supported by the National Research Initiative of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA, Grant # USDA CSREES 2003–35401-12889. We would like to extend our appreciation to Bill Buckingham of the Applied Population Lab for his excellent cartographic work and for calculating spatial distances, and to thank our three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. Please direct correspondence to: Richelle Winkler, Applied Population Lab, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Wisconsin, 316 Ag Hall, 1450 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706,


Abstract Rural communities have experienced dramatic demographic, social, and economic transformations over the past 30 years. Historically characterized by close links between natural resources and social, cultural, and economic structures, few of today's rural communities remain heavily dependent upon traditional extractive industries like ranching, forestry, and mining. New forms of development linked to natural and cultural amenities, including tourism and recreation, have evolved to sustain the link between community and resources. The Inter-Mountain West region offers an excellent example of this distinction. Many of the region's rural communities have experienced substantial population growth resulting from the in-migration of a new kind of rural resident. Their arrival, in a process some have associated with the emergence of a “New West,” has transformed rural places. However, amenity-related social and economic structures have not occurred uniformly across space. This paper uses factor analysis and exploratory spatial data analysis to analyze demographic characteristics related to the “New West” phenomena in Inter-Mountain West communities and the spatial patterns found in the degree of “New West-ness” that each community exhibits.