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‘eral Sori 6 Cspyright 1905 Spatial Redistribution of Poverty through Mi Poor People to Depressed Rural Communities! Janet M. Fitchen Department of Anthropology, Ithaca college, Ithaca, New York 14850 Ausrract Recent demographic studies document movement of poor people from both urban and rural places to depressed rural communi- ties. Such migration redistributes poverty to rural areas and further con- centrates it within them. This article presents a case study of one de- pressed community in New York that became a migration destination for urban poor people, causing dramatic increases in poverty rate, welfare rolls, and service needs. On-site research showed that the community's attraction was inexpensive rental housing that had become available after loss of manufacturing jobs prompted a middle-class exodus, The lack of jobs was not a deterrent for low-income inmigrants, though, because many of them had limited job skills and other employment barriers and would have had difficulty getting or holding a job anyway. Similar pro- cesses of economic decline, population loss, and poverty inmigration ap- pear to be oceurring elsewhere also. The article identifies community- level impacts and policy implications; it concludes with suggestions for further research needs. Introduction The recent wave of scholarly interest in rural poverty includes as- sessment of theories (Rural Sociological Society Task Force on Per- sistent Rural Poverty 1993) and descriptive studies averaging nearly one article per issue of this journal since 1992. For the most part, attention has been divided between studies of poor people, most commonly households (e.g., Bane and Ellwood 1989; Duncan and Rodgers 1991) and studies of poor places, usually counties or regions (¢.g., Brown and Warner 1991; Lyson and Falk 1993). The relationship between poor people and poor places, however, often remains unspecified. This may leave an impression that poverty of Editor's Note: Janet Fitchen submitted a revised draft of this manuscript a few days before it was discovered that she was gravely ill; she died a few months later This journal and the Rural Sociological Society benefited from her insight in ways. What I'll remember is her unselfish assistance to Rural Sociology. | asked bi be an associate editor, but she declined because she was concerned that other re- sponsibilities would not allow the time necessary to act as a referee as frequently as T requested. Yet she always reviewed papers whenever | asked: what's more, her re- views were thorough, thoughtful, and contained a hopeful attitude appreciated by authors, She wrote the remainder of this note, in which her interest in others is obvious: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1994 meeting of th Rural Sociological Society in Portland, OR, The research in New York was conducte with support from the Ford Foundation through the Aspen Institute's Rural Econom- ic Policy Program, | am indebted to community residents for sharing data and ob- servations and to anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. 32 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 people is directly linked with poverty of places; thus as residents of a locality fall into poverty, the place would experience a rise in its poverty rate and, conversely, as local residents escape poverty, the place should experience a declining poverty rate. In policy, this per ception translates to individualistic programs, such as employment training and education aimed at lifting people out of poverty, with the unstated assumption that this will be adequate for curing the poverty of localities as well. However, the relationship between pov- erty of people and of places is more complex than these assumptions presuppose. An important but underrecognized factor in the dynamic rela- tionship beween poverty of people and poverty of place is migration of poor people. Through migration, poor people can bring about spatial redistribution and temporal fluctuation of local poverty rates, even if individual households experience no change in their poverty status—neither a descent into nor an escape from poverty. When poor people move, unless they simultaneously escape poverty, they redistribute poverty to and across the rural landscape, elevating the poverty level in receiving communities and increasing demands on service and educational programs. Such a redistribution of poverty was an unexpected finding of extensive field research conducted in upstate New York in the late 1980s (Fitchen 1991). Public official in several research communities reported in interviews that poor people from elsewhere were moving into their economically sta nant rural communities; school district officials and classroom teach- ers confirmed this assertion through attendance records and other pupil documentation (Fitchen 1994), But undl recently, there was inadequate demographic data to confirm this migration phenome- non or to document its prevalence The recent literature The migration most frequently discussed in connection with rural poverty is movement away from declining rural places. Although some poor rural people may escape poverty by this move (Wenk and Hardesty 1993), at the level of the community, rural exodus may actually increase the poverty rate. As numerous studies have shown, poor people and those with least education and fewest job skills are underrepresented among the people leaving depressed rural com- munities (Cromartie 1993; Garkovich 1989; Lichter et al. 1994). On the aggregate level, selective outmigration is likely to increase local poverty rates simply because the community’s total population de- clines without a commensurate reduction in the number of its low- income residents. Besides, the departure of young adults with good job skills might not improve employment prospects for poor people who remain, because the outmigrants may not yet have entered the Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 183 local work force and are therefore not vacating jobs that remaining residents could “inherit.” Eyen if new jobs were created in the com- munity, some of the low-income people who stay behind would still not become employed because of unaddressed personal or human capital characteristics that prevented them from getting jobs in the past Migration in the opposite direction, from urban to rural, also can increase rural poverty—if the people who move are poor. During the Great Depression, for example, rural sociologists reported a re- turn migration of jobless urban residents back to the subsistence farms and small owns they had previously abandoned (Brunner and Lorge 1937). Some New Deal federal policies and programs actually fostered urban-to-rural movement as a way to reduce relief payments in urban areas (Shortridge 1989). In the 1970s too, demographers documented an urban-to-rural migration of people unable to make ends meet in the cities (Johansen and Fuguitt 1984). However, with the exception of the 1970s, the exchange of population between nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) and metropolitan (metro) places has routinely resulted in a net loss of population from rural places (Fu- guitt and Brown 1990; Johnson 1989). At the same time, according to recent analysis of demographic data from the 1980s (Lichter et al. 1994), rural places also have experienced a net loss of human capital. The data demonstrate that numerical imbalance in rural-to- urban population exchange has been matched by an imbalance in human capital resource flow, with a net loss to rural communitie In comparing migration streams from and to rural places, research- ers found a critical differential: people who move from urban areas to rural are older, poorer, less well educated, and less connected to the labor force than people who move away from rural places, An- other indication of redistribution of poverty to rural places comes from Frey's (1994) analyses of 1990 census data. He found, for ex- ample, that California and New Jersey are exporting poor, less-ed- ucated white houscholds with children to neighboring states. This internal outmigration, Frey suggested, is a response to such push factors as competition with immigrants for jobs and housing, and perhaps uneasiness with the area's growing diversity; it is especially marked in states with high immigration and high minority popula- tions. In any case, it redistributes poverty outward from metro areas. Similarly, recent census analysis by Lichter et al. (1994) demonstrat- ed conclusively that poor urban people are moving to rural places, a migration that would increase rural poverty rates still farther, at least temporarily, because by the very act of their moves these mi- grants transfer their poverty from the metro category to the non- metro. Because of the effect of scale, a migration of poor people from urban to rural areas increases the rural poverty rate much more than it decreases the city's poverty rate. 184 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 A third migration pattern—movement of poor people from one rural place to another—also can redistribute poverty and create or add to localized poverty concentrations within rural areas. Recent migration research (Nord 1994; Nord et al. 1992) informs us that when poor rural people do leave a poor community, they may ac- tually contribute to further concentration of poverty in another ru- ral place. Using Current Population Survey data, these researchers found a spatial sorting process of migration that increases concen- tration of poverty in nonmetro areas. Poor rural residents were found to have moved more than less-poor rural residents and to have settled in communities that are even poorer than the places they left. At the interstate level, these studies found that poor rural people tend to move toward, rather than away from, higher-poverty states; at the inter-county level, poor rural people who move away from high-poverty rural counties were found to be moving to coun- ties of equal or greater poverty, In either case, when poor people move from one rural place to another that has a higher poverty rate, they take their poverty with them, thereby augmenting the already high poverty rate in the receiving community The result of each of these three migration patterns is localized increase in and concentration of poverty, causing poverty rates in the countryside to rise even if no additional local residents fell into poverty. In some places, differential outmigration coincides with in- migration of poor people, making the localized poverty increase especially dramatic. Movement of poor people from either rural or urban places to already-poor rural places may seem puzzling or ir- rational, for poor people are not only “failing” to move away from poor rur: new demographic evidence for this counterintuitive phenomenon is convincing, macro-level data cannot adequately describe the peo- ple who move, the reasons behind their relocation decisions, or the impacts on the depressed rural communities in which they settle. To explore these topics, micro-level, on-site qualitative research is an essential complement to demographic research. | places, they are actually moving towards them. Although Field research on migration of poor people to poor rural places To explore this migration phenomenon at greater depth, a small- scale, focused field-research project was undertaken in an upstate New York community that had recently experienced an exception- ally rapid rise in welfare caseloads. On-site research was conducted during a three-month period in 1990 by a single researcher. Initial review of secondary data from state agencies and local institutions was augmented by disaggregated 1990 census data as it became avail- able. The local welfare office provided data on recent changes in Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 185 level of demand for services and furnished nonconfidential docu- mentation on client characteristics, Then, to probe recent changes in the local poverty situation, unstructured interviews were con- ducted with personnel from other agencies serving the community's low-income population. These included both group and individual interviews with administrative and contact staff and tapped a variety of public and private health, social service, and educational insti- tutions, For example, a focus group interview was held with the staff of the Community Action Agency and individual interviews were held with representatives of the local police and court systems. Most interviewees also furnished summarized data on clients, cases, or pupils (with names deleted) and recommended other people to be interviewed. Small-group interviews also were conducted with village sidents, including both recipients of and people outside the ser- vice-delivery network, as well as people of different ages and income levels, A full afternoon focus-group interview was held with young single mothers who were participating in an agency-run program. Most interviews with professionals and service-providers took place in their offices, whereas interviews with individual residents oc- curred in their homes. Interview questions were specific to the in- dividual, program, or situation rather than standardized because the purpose was to tap each individual's own knowledge or experience of and role in the increasing poverty in the community. Most inter- views lasted at least an hour; they were recorded in handwritten notes taken during the interview, with additional comments amend- ed immediately afterwards. In all, 19 separate interview sessions were conducted, tapping 25 different individuals; a few key informants were reinterviewed four years later. Many hours also were spent watching sidewalk activity, observing business in the remaining shops, and tracking action in agency offices, Public bulletin boards were monitored for the periods; current and recent issues of local newspapers were scanned. Riverside, New York in 1990 Background The village of “Riverside,” located about 100 miles from New York City and 30 miles from Albany, is the county seat of “Mountain County.” Census figures show that Mountain County has experi enced population growth for four decades, with nearly a 25 percent gain in the 1970s alone. The county grew by another 10 percent during the 1980s, which was tiple the state's growth rate for the decade, and reached nearly 50,000 people by 1990. Driving: this growth were middle-class and professional commuter families mov- ing outward from Albany and retirees moving up from the New York y area. In contrast to the county, the village of Riverside suffered 186 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 a 10 percent population decline in the 1970s, reflecting the loss of some major manufacturing and extractive industries and a steady exodus of blue-collar and middle-class residents, In the 1980s, how- ever, village population loss slowed to less than 1 percent per year, leaving a 1990 population just under 5,000. This negligible decline appears from interviews to have been the net result of two separate migration streams: continued loss of jobless families early in the decade followed by a nearly equivalent replacement inmigration of low-income people. This replacement during the late 1980s and con- tinuing to the present is the main focus of this paper. The population exchange of the late 1980s lefi Riverside consid- erably poorer than it had been and much poorer than the surround- ing area of the county, The village poverty rate rose from 11 percent in 1979 to nearly 17 percent by 1989, In contrast, the county's pov- erty rate dropped from more than 11 percent in 1979 to 10 percent in 1989, The composition and distribution of the poverty population changed as well. The 1990 census shows that the poverty rate among village elderly was a relatively low 8 percent as compared to 11 per cent in the county as a whole. But child poverty had become far more prominent in the village. In 1989, the poverty rate among village children was 27 percent, more than double the county’s child poverty rate (12%) and well above the state rate of 19 percent. The village also showed a high rate of female-headed households in 1990, 17 percent as compared with 10 percent for the county as a whole and 14 percent for the state. Census data also confirmed that the inmigration had brought somewhat more ethnic diversity to Riverside. The black population, ightly from 11 percent long present in the village, had grown only in 1980 to 12 percent in 1990, although it still composed only percent of the county's population. Meanwhile, the Hispanic share of village population grew from less than 2 percent to 5 percent. The Hispanic increase was partially reflected in 1990 welfare «: load records. In spring 1990, 47 heads of households on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) were identified as His panic, which was reported to be a new phenomenon. However, wel- fare records may underestimate the growth in low-income Hispanics, for as caseworkers explained, a nonHispanic woman living with a Hispanic boyfriend and their child would be classified on the basis of the mother-applicant as “Caucasian.” Head Start program re- cords and actions reflected more accurately the growing heteroge- neity among young low-income families in the village. In 1990, about 20 percent of children in Head Start were black and the number of Hispanic children had grown from 1 to 31 in just three years, jus tifying the hiring of a bilingual teacher to make home visits. Overall, it appeared in 1990 that the majority of recent inmigrants, like the majority of poor people in the village, were white nonHispanics. Poverty and Migration—Fitchen According to key informants, however, the inmigrating stream has continued since 1990 and has become more Hispanic. Field observations indicating an increasing and changing poverty population Field research in Riverside revealed numerous local indicators that the poverty growth of the late 1980s was continuing and even creasing in 1990 and provided clues to the nature and causes of the increase. Rapidly rising welfare and food stamp rolls revealed a grow- ing number of young single-parent families, County welfare case- loads that had held steady until 1988 went up at least 20 percent a year for the next two years, at a time when caseloads increased by only 1 percent in the state as a whole and 7 percent in New York City. Local welfare caseloads rose another 7 percent just in the first three months of 1990. At the same time, there was also a 13 percent increase in a single month in the number of individuals not on public assistance who were receiving food stamps. These increases, documented in local and state records, are not attributable to changes in eligibility criteria for these programs. The rising population of low-income people was increasingly con- centrated within the village. In 1990, office records documented that almost all of the county's new applicants for all forms of assis- tance lived within the village of Riverside rather than in the sur rounding countryside of farms, suburban commuter villages, sec- ond-home communities, and a resort area. The county's Commissioner of Social Services, pressed by county legislators who were upset about budget overruns for welfare and Medicaid, offered an explanation to them in a memo that concluded: “In towns where there are no rentals available or where the rents are high because of the (resort) areas, we have very few (welfare) cases. It would certainly appear at first glance that ‘affordable’ and available hous- ing draws people to certain areas.” She added: “(t]he location of services in (the village) appears to be an attraction.” Indeed, the concentration in the county seat of offices where people must go in connection with welfare benefits, Medicaid, and food stamps also would explain the concentration of lowncome people in the vil- lage. Because few welfare applicants owned cars and there was no public transportation in outlying areas, convenient access to social services, as well as to a medical clinic, pharmacy, and grocery store, played an important role in determining where people settled. Nonetheless, availability of cheap rental housing appears to have been the main factor driving concentration of poverty within the village. Because the village had suffered a population decline of nearly 20 percent from 1960 to 1980 and had lost many businesses as well, 188 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 it contained a great deal of vacant real estate, both residential and commercial. Some buildings were still owned by family heirs or for- mer residents who had moved away; according to local officials, how- ever, an increasing number had been purchased by metro-area in- vestors. Since owners of excess buildings could find no buyers for single-family houses or commercial space in this declining village, they attempted to cover their inyestment and taxes, and to generate income, by di apartments, By the time of the 1990 census, only half of village hous- ing units were owner-occupied, which is at least 10 percent below the level gencrally found in high-poverty rural communities in the state. The village code officer, occupying a newly-created position in local government, reported that the pace of conversion to apart- ments was brisk. In the first seven months of 1990, he had received an average of nearly one permit application a week, 25 applications for conversion in 25 separate buildings to create a total of 45 to 50 housing units. The code officer reported that nearly all landlords were from outside the county; he estimated that 15 percent of the available housing in the village was rented to low-income people and that 75 percent of “the Main Street population” receives public assistance. In many cases, the rent is paid directly by the Department of Social Services to the landlord. As still more commercial property and single-family residential units were converted to. inexpensive apartments, the demand for cheap rental units seemed only to grow. For the most part, this increased housing demand was not locally generated but came as a spillover effect from nearby communities that had earlier experienced an influx of low-income renters. One county adjacent to Mountain County had experienced a 7 percent population increase in 1987 alone; by 1988, the apartment vacancy rate there had dropped to 1 percent. This tightened rental market coincided with the start of the influx of poor people to nearby Riv- erside, where monthly rents were about $100 lower. In another ad- joining county, one village had been receiving low-income inmigr tion all through the 1980s. That village’s poverty rates exceeded those of Riverside, but so did its rents. According to several inter- viewees, some of the late-1980s inmigrants to Riverside had come from the other village, and the two places continued to be con- nected by social ties and migration networks. By 1990, Riv replaced its neighbor as the area’s new migration destination for people secking low-cost rental housing—and in the process had be- come much poorer. iding up the buildings into small, inexpensive rental side had Characteristics of inmigrants and their moves: a sample of new welfare applicants Who were the inmigrants and why did they come to Riverside? Use- ful insights came from the county's Department of Social Services Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 13 (DSS), which was screening 18 new applicants every day, the maxi- mum number it could handle. Wishing to understand the height ened demand for public assistance, the commissioner asked intake workers to conduct a simple questionnaire among new applicants for AFDC during the period of December 1989 through March 1990. Although the questionnaire and sampling were not designed by or for researchers and the sample was small, tabulation of the 46 completed questionnaires shed light on both the inmigrants and the migration process. All but two of the 46 new welfare applicants had only recently come to the county. Among new applicants, 83 percent had lived in the county for less than one year; 56 percent had been in the county for less than six months; 29 percent for less than a month, and 12 percent for less than a week. Most new welfare applicants were single parents, as would be ex- pected from AFDC eligibility guidelines, They did not have large families, however. Nearly half of respondents in the survey had two persons in their houschold (the applicant herself and a young child), and three-quarters had three persons or less, There were more single-person households than households with more than three persons, Small family size was corroborated in information supplied by the village code enforcer; 65 percent of the newly cre- ated apartments are two-bedroom units while only 20 to 25 percent have three or more bedrooms. Housing played a central role in movement of poor people to this village. On the DSS survey, the reasons most frequently given for leaving the prior location were “too expensive,” followed. by “lost aparunent,” which was found in other research (Fitchen 1994) to be connected to its being too expensive. The village of Riverside appeared to these people as offering a solution to their housing problem, The large supply of vacant stores and homes that had been converted to rental apartments provided a housing stock that was relatively inexpensive compared with surrounding counties and far cheaper than New York City. In April 1990, a one- or two-bedroom apartment of poor but liveable quality rented for about $350 to $375. Median contract rent indicated in the census was $346, con- siderably lower than in adjacent counties closer to New York or Al bany. But even at that, an average two-bedroom apartment was about $100 over the AFDG shelter allowance for a family that would need two bedrooms, Migration to Riverside is often a two-stage process. Although the accepted local interpretation was that new welfare applicants were coming entirely and directly from New York City, responses on this survey indicated a more complex pattern. Generally, the immediate prior place of residence for applicants who had been in the county less than one year was not New York City. More than half (53. per- 190 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 cent) had moved to Riverside from an adjacent or nearby county also outside the New York metro area; 30 percent moved from an out of state address; and only 17 percent moved from the New York metro area. Because the questionnaire asked about earlier resi dences as well as the one immediately prior to Riverside, it revealed an important aspect of the migration. In the majority of cases, the individual had indeed lived in the New York metro area but moved somewhere else before coming to Riverside. It appears that low-in- come migrants were moving out of the city and past the suburbs to a community in a fringe county. Then as low-income population growth drove up rents and decreased vacancies in the resettlement community, people in this first wave, as well as subsequent migrants from the city, were forced to find some other peripheral community with cheap housing and more rental units, Interpersonal and social factors also are important in these moves. Personal problems and dissatisfaction with the social environment are among the push factors welfare applicants cited as causes of their move to Riverside. “Abusive spouse” and the vague “to get away from surroundings” were the more commonly mentioned reasons for leaving the previous location, followed by “family wouble, landlord trouble,” “to keep out of trouble,” and “moving away from (parents') home.” Interpersonal relationships play an even greater role in selecting a destination, according to the pull factors people listed. Nearly 40 percent of households in the sample had pre-existing ties to this community, cither prior residence or rel tives or friends living in the area. Several reported that they stayed with relatives when they first arrived Questionnaire responses were especially revealing on the topic of employment, showing that prospects for newly arrived welfare ap- plicants were quite minimal. Employment opportunities were nei ther a push factor in people’s departure from their previous location nor a pull factor attracting them to Riverside, Only 1 of the 46 respondents referred directly to employment as a reason for leaving the previous location, stating simply, "“couldn’t find work.” Similarly, only five responses, about 20 percent of the “pull” reasons listed, were job-related; three people mentioned a job or spouse's job, one came “to look for work,” and one came for a summer job in the resorts, In fact, few jobs were open at the time anyway; good man- ufacturing jobs had declined precipitously several years before, more plants had recently closed, and even low-wage retail sales jobs had become scarce. The 1990 census reported a village unemployment rate of only 4.9 percent, remarkably low for rural New York, but probably reflecting the fact that people who had lost jobs earlier had moved away by that time, leaving only discouraged workers no longer looking for work and recent arrivals not seeking employ- ment. Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 191 The limited employment prospect for people who moved to Riv- side was not just a result of the sagging local economy, however. The questionnaire responses clearly revealed that not all welfare applicants could haye worked even if jobs had been more plentiful. Of 41 respondents on the employment questions, although 34 re- ported that they had been employed at some point during the last year, only 27 reported that they were currently able to work; 11 others reported that they were not able to work, and 3 gave a qual- ified response. Even more revealing, perhaps, are the responses when applicants were asked to state “any barriers to employment.” Fully 41 percent of those answering said that they had “no market- able skill,” and 35 percent reported a disability or health problem that prevented them from working, The remainder gave a variety of other less intractable reasons, including problems of transportation (18%) and child care (9%). Overall, it appears that as much as one- third of the sampled population might have difficulty getting or holding a job even if local employment opportunities improved. ¢ en the émployment barriers listed by these respondents, it is perhaps more understandable that the lack of employment opportunities in Riverside did not deter urban low-income people from coming to this small upstate town. Impacts of poverty inmigration on the community It is not clear exactly how many people moved to Riverside in the late 1980s and how many of them were poor; but in a community of fewer then 5,000 residents, even a hundred low-income inmi- grants in a year can have a significant impact. A relatively small incoming population, if it consists primarily of people who will not soon be in the labor force and who may be service-needy, can create a disproportionately large demand on community resources. The dramatic increase in needy residents and the increase in the level of their needs was felt by Riverside’s schools and human services, including the community action agency, which reported that its case- load had increased 20 percent in each of the last two years and that the people it served were now even poorer than a few years earlier. The percentage of clients with incomes below 75 percent of the poverty line had increased from 37 percent in 1987 to 44 percent in 1988 and to more than 50 pereent by 1989. Most new clients were very recent arrivals in the county and many were arriving in an emergency situation: “People are showing up at the door with no money, no food, no housing, and no job.” Most had come to town by bus; and some reported to the agency that they had been given money for bus fare by Travelers’ Aid or some charity orga in the place where they previously lived. nization For the village school system, a long decline in enrollment had been halted and reversed, with greatest growth in the early grades 192 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 But at the same time, according to the superintendent, there was “dramatic” growth in special education and service needs. Despite a tight budget, the district added more social workers, instituted a mental health program, and expanded its special education staff to cope with “a traumatic change in the student body in the last five years (1985 to 1990).” Meanwhile, the parochial school closed and more high schoolers from middle-class families were being sent to private boarding schools. The change in local population had even affected the utility company, which had hired a social worker to help families plan and keep up with their payments. In Riverside, the most noticed feature of this new low-income pop- ulation was—and remains—its visibility. Because the apartments in and above the old stores are small and do not have yards for chil- dren to play in or porches for adults to sit on, tenants of all ages congregate on the sidewalks and in store entryways. Especially in warmer weather, at all times of day and long into the night adults push strollers up and down main street, congregate in doorways, socialize on the sidewalks, and use the outdoor public phones. Long- time village residents were quick to comment about “loitering, “hanging around,” and “clogging the sidewalk." Some of them, particularly elderly women, reported a sense of fear when walking “downtown.” Others used their observations in town as conclusive proof of the laziness of welfare people who were said to be “over- running the village.” Still other long-time village residents had b gun to avoid downtown, leaving the remaining local businesses with even fewer customers. Other responses to the changed population were more official. The village police department, acceding to the demands of village merchants, assigned an evening foot patrol to what remains of the business district; the sheriff's department as- signed a fulltime deputy to the welfare office on main street “to keep things more quiet and orderly in the waiting room.” In this situation, negative attitudes, stigmatization, and distancing of the newer low-income residents by the more affluent long-time residents had become pervasive. “Oldtimers” complained of the number of people, cars, and dogs connected to cach rental house, and the noise at night; but the underlying text appeared to be one of class, with special resentment over the presumed use (and abuse) of welfare (Salamon and Tornatore 1994). Long-time residents spoke of “a blight” or “a blemish in my community,” and reported feeling “uncomfortable,” “resentful,” “angry,” and finally “apa- thetic” about the changes. One middle-class woman who used to be an active volunteer in many community organizations explained why she no longer contributed her time and skills: “The problem's too big now. There’s no point.” Some long-term residents claimed 1 crime, drugs, and AIDS had been introduced to their community only in the wake of the influx of low-income people from the city. Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 193 Long-time residents also expressed resentment towards former neighbors who had moved away for “contributing to community deterioration” by selling or renting their houses to “a different class of people.” While some older long-time residents reported that they planned to “just sit tight,” locking their doors and staying home in the evenings, some younger families were debating whether they should follow friends and former neighbors who had already moved away. Discussion Redistribution of poor people to and among rural places that al- ready are depressed might be termed “backfilling” or “succession,” in that a depopulated community is being repopulated. Regardless of provenience of inmigrants from the same or a nearby county or from a more distant and larger metro area, as a rural community becomes a migration destination for poor people, it both regains population and grows poorer. The term “welfare magnet” that is sometimes used in the press to refer to communities receiving a low- income replacement population is inappropriate, however, because the main attractant seems to be inexpensive housing, followed by pre-existing social ties, rather than welfare benefits (Voss and Fuguitt 1991). Additionally, not all poor families who move to such a town turn to public assistance when they get there; nor do all of those who get on welfare stay on it for long. As the demographic research now confirms, this phenomenon is quite widespread. Brief field research in other New York commu- nities and in high-poverty rural counties in nine other states (Fitch- en 1994) indicates that the case example presented here is not unique and suggests some gencralizations to be explored in further research, The process of poverty inmigration appears to be quite patterned. The sequence generally proceeds as follows. Loss of employment in a rural community, especially if major or sudden, accelerates the pace of outmigration of community residents, particularly young adults with completed high school education. Population decline creates a glut of unwanted housing and vacant commercial buildings, which the owners (often absentee heirs or outside investors) decide to rent out, either whole or partitioned into apartments. At the same time, low-income people residing in cities both close by and distant, small and large, are being squeezed by rising housing costs and meager employment incomes or welfare support and are attracted to a rural town by its lower housing costs, better living conditions and schools, nd in many cases by the presence of relatives. “Pioneer” migrants subsequently are followed by low-income relatives and friends in the familiar pattern of chain migration and by other nonrelated “push- 194 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. Summer 1995 outs” from the cities, adding momentum and impact to the migra- tion. Generally, migrants leapfrog over the city’s suburban ring to settle in one or a group of economically distressed and depopulated towns in the rural periphery. Impacts on receiving communities can be striking. Transformation of a rural community through this sequence may be especially dramatic where the town has lost a major employer, such as a large factory, mill, mine, railroad operation, or military installation. If the em- ployer had owned worker housing at the time the facility closed, a large amount of housing becomes available all at once. But in a small community that has just lost a major employer, home-buying demand plummets and properties go to investors, often from out of town, who put them up for rent. Eventually the low rents charged for this surplus housing attract poor people from elsewhere. To the extent that inexpensive rental housing rather than jobs is the chief attraction, the incoming population is apt to be poor and the com- munity thus experiences a secondary rise in poverty following on the heels of poverty caused by the initial employment loss. Once a community gains a reputation as a place to find cheap housing, backfilling may escalate and the poverty may become entrenched. For example, in another research site in upstate New York and one in eastern Oregon as well, a large enclave of decommissioned World War Il “temporary” defense-related housing still stands a half-cen- tury later, owned by local and absentee landlords, fully rented and occupied, as a rural ghetto serving the low-income housing needs of surrounding communities. Poverty inmigration may bring a significant change in ethnic/ racial composition of a depressed rural community, Although ethnic change in Riverside was not dramatic, in another small city in the western part of New York most of the backfilling population was Puerto Rican. In this community, a large surplus of inexpensive rent al housing had been created when major losses in the steel industry in the 1970s resulted in large-scale outmigration. Coupled with a pre-existing base of Puerto Rican residents, the glut of cheap rental housing made the town particularly attractive to poor families com- ing directly from Puerto Rico or from New York City. As a result of this backfilling, the Hispanic share of the city’s population doubled from 7 to 14 percent in the 1980s; during the same time its poverty rate climbed to 19 percent The backfilling phenomenon may be self-limiting, Eventually the reserve of inexpensive housing is taken up, rents rise, the increase in the poverty rate tapers off, and the community may attain relative de- mographic stasis—but with a high level of poverty. Turnover or re- placement in the low-income population may continue but without ignificant further growth in the number of its poor people. Even if demand for cheap rental housing continues strong, construction Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 195 of new low-cost housing may be resisted by local politic mit boards, whose members tend to reflect negative community at- titudes towards the low-income arrivals. Though they may phrase their objections in terms of limitations of water and sewer infrastruc- ture, negative class and ethnic attitudes lie just beneath the surface. In some communities, low-cost housing demand and population in- flux peak and subsequently decline as a result of such exogenous factors as the arrival of a wave of more affluent people with the economic and political resources to reverse the community's down- hill slide, or at least to salvage and upgrade its buildings. In this case, poorer residents may get priced out, again becoming margin- alized into the periphery, where another community with excess housing will become their temporary home. Relocating to a depressed community may be economically rational. Move- ment of poor people to economically depressed rural towns is coun- terintuitive (and perplexing to most economists) because individuals and families who have trouble earning a living are moving from dynamic economic centers with adequate or growing employment to stagnant, jobless rural peripheries with high unemployment and serious underemployment. The key to understanding such migra tion decisions is that at least some of the low-income migrants are people whose earning capacity is inadequate to make ends meet in a prosperous town or a large city, They are fleeing to a place with lower-cost housing, even if employment opportunities there may be quite limited. For many, a parttime low-wage job may be tolerable in the new location because it can cover a greater portion of housing costs. And although costs of utilities, transportation, and even food may be higher in the rural setting, these are offset by lower housing costs in the glutted rental market of a declining town. For some inmigrants, the move represents an attempt to find a living situation that will minimize the negative consequences of their own employ- ment handicaps, their lack of education, inadequate job prepara- tion, or limited work histories. For some, the move minimizes neg- ative consequences of physical or emotional problems or of developmental disabilities because there are no employment oppor tunities anyway—but housing is cheap. The economic rationality of this residential movement is especial- ly evident in connection with publicassistance programs. For fami- lies that have received assistance in a prior location, all cash and noncash benefits, such as AFDC, food stamps, and Medicaid, are portable. Relatively little paperwork or time is required to establish eligibility and begin receiving benefits in a new location within the state or even in another state, At present, a family not previously receiving assistance may apply for welfare and other benefits im- ans and per= mediately upon arrival in another county or state. Benefit levels for recipients are set by federal or state formulae (federal for food 196 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. Summer 1995 stamps, state for welfare); the relationship between benefit level and local housing costs can vary significantly, even within a given county In most cases, an AFDC recipient's housing allowance will fall less short of actual housing costs in a depressed rural town than in an economically stronger community in the same county or in a metro . For people who have been receiving or might receive welfar then, there is no disincentive against moving to a job-poor area; indeed, there is an economic incentive to follow cheap housing, even if means relocating in a rural place with few jobs. The rural community may provide an opportunity for making “a new start,” especially for welfare recipients who already have good job skills or who can benefit from local training or educational pro- grams offered or required for welfare recipients. Some graduates of such programs manage to find work in or near the community, de- spite its shortage of jobs; others move back to their place of origin better prepared for employment. For many inmigrants, though, their own personal and work-related shortcomings compound local employment problems to minimize their chances of becoming self supporting. are Research needs and policy implications Because migration of poor people to depressed communities redis- uibutes poverty to and within rural areas, it has policy relevance. And because the migrants are poor, their impacts on the receiving community, in terms of population change and fiscal strains, may be out of proportion to the absolute number of migrants. But much more research is needed, both large-scale demographic analysis and localized in-depth field studies, to provide an adequate base for in- forming public policy. First, more needs to be known about the extent and spatial dis- tribution of this phenomenon. Itis not occurring uniformly around the nation; only some urban places are “exporting” their poor to rural America and only certain depressed rural communities are receiving poverty inmigration. Backfilling occurs in such diverse cir- cumstances as northern California communities that have lost pop- ulation following decline in the timber industry (Kusel 1991) and northern Pennsylvania communities with out-patient drug and al- cohol rehabilitation centers serving patients from metro areas (Mil- ofsky et al. 1993). Provisional identification of receiving commut ties could come from disaggregated census data, using such telltale indicators as a local poverty rate that has recently risen significantly or become much higher than that of the surrounding county, a poverty rate among children that is uncharacteristically high for the area, a local homeownership rate that is low for the region or has recently declined, and a level of labor-force participation that is low Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 197 for the area, In peripheral communities displaying several of these indicators, poverty inmigration might be hypothesized and should be investigated in on-site research, Field research also could explore the “push” factors operating in the sending places and the spatial variants of the migration phenomenon in different regional, eco- nomic, historical, demographic, and ethnic contexts (Duncan 1992; Lyson and Falk 1993) As a second step, investigation is needed on why certain rural communities become migration destinations for poor people or, conversely, why poor people migrate to certain communities but not others. This could be accomplished through systematic field study of places where the phenomenon is occurring and comparison with places where it is not. Local data on relative availability and costs of housing would clarify the role of housing in attracting poor people to depressed peripheral towns, Other draws might include reported case of getting a job, pre-existing social ties, easily accessible offices for health care and social services, and easy public transportation connections with the community of origin. A third and particularly important research topic concerns the consequences of this migration, both on the individuals who move and on the receiving communities, including short-term and long term impacts, both positive and negative. A multi-site study of im- pacts could combine longitudinal quantitative data and state and local records with in-depth qualitative research. Questions that could be answered in such research would include: What factors enhance or reduce a community's ability to meet the challenge of this poverty inmigration? What positive benefits accrue to the community? Do negative impacts on the community eventually taper off? What role is played by such factors as scale (size of the inmigrating population relative to the local base population), speed of inmigration, distance from a metro area, and degree of similarity between inmigrating and pre-existing populations? Retrospective and longitudinal studie of people who have made the move would reveal what happens to individuals and families in the years following their move: Do people stay or move on again? Which inmigrants are most likely to escape poverty, either within the depressed rural community or after mov- ing elsewhere, and what contributes to their upward mobility? This research is important because movement of poor people to depressed rural communities is a public policy issue; it raises ques- tions about the role of national, state, and local policy in both cau- sality of and response to poverty. Although this case study and re- lated field research reveal individual migration decisions based on cost of living, quality of life, social relationships, and perceived op- portunities, it is clear that behind the separate migration decisions lie aggregate-level economic and social forces and policies that result from commitments and priorities on the system level. For example, 198 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 it might be suggested that neglect of the nation's cities, with con- sequent deterioration of living conditions and scarcity of low-cost housing, drives out poor people as well as the middle class. To the extent that the urban poor end up in marginal rural communities, urban neglect is being deflected into rural areas. On the other hand, movement of poor people within the rural area highlights the role of uneven rural development and the force of an unrestrained private real estate market, often exacerbated by local land-use re- strictions, in pushing low-income rural residents out to stagnant pe- ripheral places where inexpensive housing is plentiful but employ- ment scare. Other policy issues involve selection of governmental responses. For example, should this poverty migration be encouraged, dis- couraged, or ignored by federal and state policy? Until recently, relocation of poor people into depressed rural communities has not explicitly been a policy-driven phenomenon but a consequence of specific agency practices. According to interview comments, case- workers in urban welfare offices and even in some rural welfare offices encourage certain clients to move out to peripheral places as a way to help them come closer to meeting monthly rent on the welfare shelter allowance and also as a way to remove them from a trouble-prone social environment. This alleged practice is some- times referred to by human service workers in receiving communi- ties as “welfare dumping” or as “Greyhound welfare” because the client is given a free one-way bus ticket to a small-town destination Recently, this unofficial practice has become an explicit state policy, known in New York as “relocation planning” or “moving to oppor- tunity,” in which the city welfare department provides a rent subsidy that a client can wansport to another location in the state and use to obtain subsidized private-sector rental housing there. In this con- nection, it is relevant to note that New York City has now become a net exporter of welfare families, taking in fewer applicants than it sends out to other localities (Roberts 1994). If these practices be come widespread, state-level policy to decentralize poverty away from large cities would compound the effect of housing market fore- es in causing movement of poor people to depressed rural com- munities. Whether by explicit policy, unofficial practice, or voluntary choice, relocation of welfare recipients to depressed rural commu- nities redistributes not only poverty but also fiscal responsibility for the poor. This can be a serious problem in states such as New York, California, and a dozen others, where the county in which a welfare recipient resides is required to pay a share (in many places one-half of the state’s costs) for Medicaid and certain public assistance pro- grams. When people on assistance move across county lines, the sending county will cover the local share of the costs for only one Poverty and Migration—Fitchen 199 month after relocation; subsequently, the receiving county must pay the local match for Medicaid, public assistance, and any other ser- vices and programs inmigrants might need. Rural county govern- ments in New York and California have been highly critical of fund- ing formulae that place additional fiscal burden on the receiving county, Weighing the costs and benefits to individual movers and to com- munities where people relocate should be an important part of the policy discussion. There are some potential benefits for the com- munity, such as recovery from carlier population losses, with new children to fill its schools, new customers for local stores (whether paying in food stamps or cash), and potentially more participants in community institutions. But at the same time, the community's poverty rate rises, county welfare caseloads climb, and spending for local educational, health, and human service programs escalates. Thus, even if the move to a small depressed community is beneficial for the movers, there remains a policy question of whether this ben- efit offsets the negative fiscal effects and heavy service demands on receiving communities. An important policy question is how the bur- dens on receiving communities are to be assessed, monitored, and minimized and which jurisdictional levels should bear the costs. Without special assistance, receiving communities not only take in additional poor people but aré left to pay the costs from their own depleted treasuries. The important questions here are how negative community impacts should be minimized, mitigated, and distribut- ed, and how potential benefits of population recovery can be actu- alized Finally, in light of this micro-level research, along with recent mac- ro-level demographic findings on the distribution and incide! rural poverty, some of the often-suggested and politically popular remedies for rural poverty should be questioned. For example, it is frequently suggested that the way to reduce rural poverty is to urge rural poor people to move to more central, larger places. Although this may potentially be an effective strategy to lift some individuals out of poverty, it must be recognized that removing poor people from poor rural communities will not necessarily reduce the poverty of those places. In fact, if the vacated rural places are backfilled by poor people who have been priced out elsewhere, these communi- ties will become even poorer, Similarly, the growing political pres- sure for enacting state and county residency requirements or waiting periods for receipt of various types of assistance also should be ques- tioned. Instead, the distribution of fiscal responsibility for public ice of assistance and various social and educational programs for poor peo- ple should be rethought and new formulae negotiated to remove the fiscal burden from the places least able to afford it, the com- munities receiving an influx of poor people. Jurisdictions and 200 Rural Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1995 boundaries of municipalities, counties, and even states may not be appropriate for serving the poor, let alone for fighting poverty. 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