Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The travails of rural female teens

A couple of newspaper stories and a documentary about rural teenage women have crossed my line of vision in recent weeks, so I decided to bring them together in a blog post, though they hit on a range of issues--from the election to healthcare to the justice system.  

The first was this pre-election story about teenage girls in Oregon, a feature that made an explicit rural-urban (or, perhaps more precise, metro-nonmetro) comparison regarding views of Trump, particularly in the wake of the video in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia.  The piece, by Claire Cain Miller, appeared on the NYTimes Upshot the Friday before the election, and it reports on a poll of 332 girls, with data analysis by David Rothschild and Tobias Konitzer of PredictWise.  Miller describes these girls as being of the generation "raised to believe that women can do anything men can do yet aware that they have not yet."  Among them, 44% said they would definitely or most likely vote for Hillary Clinton--were they old enough to vote--while 15% said they would vote for Trump. 

Here's the part with the explicit rural-urban comparison:  
At Grant High School in Portland, Ore., girls tended to be reluctant Clinton supporters, having originally been fans of Senator Bernie Sanders. At Sherman County High School, in rural Moro, Ore., east of the Cascade Range where blue Oregon turns red, the girls were divided between the candidates.
When questioned about who has power, the teens differed rather sharply, with the nonmetropolitan teens more likely to reference people they actually knew, the urban teens more likely to list celebrities.
The girls pay close attention to women in power. Asked who had power, Grant High girls offered mostly celebrities, including Beyoncé, the Kardashian sisters, Miley Cyrus, Oprah, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Emma Watson and J. K. Rowling. In Moro, they talked about their mothers and grandmothers, and a principal they had had when they were in first grade.
The story showed photos of seven teenage girls and featured quotes from each, in addition to quotes in the text of the article from other teens.  Of those quoted and pictured, just two of the seven were from rural teens.  What one says tends to reinforce what social science tells us about rural families very urban ones--that the former remain more traditional:
I never thought there would be a woman president because the way I grew up, men were always in charge and the women provided for the families.
That quote is from 14-year-old Alyssa Hill.  Another young woman, Jordan Barrett, is more optimistic.
There’s a lot of misogynist people who think she’s a woman so she can’t do this, she’s not smart enough, she’s not powerful enough. I think if you want to do it, you can still try, but it’s harder.
The story also features this from a Moro, Oregon adolescent, Morgan Lesh, age 15.
That hits me hard when people like Trump say people who are skinnier than I am are too big.  It makes me feel extremely insecure about myself.
Jordan agrees with her friend Morgan:
Especially for girls in high school, rating girls on a scale of 1 to 10 does not help because it really does get into your head that they think I’m ugly or I don’t look good. 
The two disagree, however, on which candidate to support, though Miller doesn't reveal which is the Trump supporter and which the Clinton supporter.  

The second story is this more recent piece in the Los Angeles Times about the difference in teen pregnancy rates between metro and non metro young women.  Caren Kaplan reports under the headline, "There's Another Type of Rural-Urban Divide in America:  Teens Having Babies."  The lede follows:
The teen birth rate in America’s small towns is 63% higher than in its biggest cities, a new government report reveals. 
In 2015, there were 18.9 births for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19 living in counties with large urban areas, according to a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That compares with 30.9 births per 1,000 women in the same age group who lived in rural counties, the report said.
In between were counties with small- and medium-sized cities and suburbs. There, the birth rate was 24.3 babies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19. 
The new data “underscore that community can be one of the strongest predictors of pregnancy risk for teens,” said Nikki Mayes, a spokeswoman for the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health in Atlanta.
Whatever the size of population cluster, all places experienced a decline in teen birth rates between 2007 and 2015.

I wonder if this difference in the incidence of teenage mothers is related to lesser availability of abortion in rural places, a matter I've written about here and here.  I suspect it is also is a function of the lesser availability of health care, generally, and contraception in particular.  Indeed, the story also quotes Mayes in this regard:
Rural women experience poorer health outcomes and have less access to health care than urban women, in part due to limited numbers of health care providers, especially women’s health providers.   As a result, women in rural areas are less likely than urban women to receive contraceptive services.
Mayes notes that Arkansas is among the states exploring using telemedicine to deliver such reproductive health services.

Finally, I want to mention the documentary, "Audrie and Daisy," which I viewed last week.  The film is about two teenage girls in small town Maryville, Missouri, who are raped by older boys from the town.   Here's the description on the film's website:

"Audrie and Daisy" is an urgent real-life drama that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera. From acclaimed filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island President, The Rape of Europa), "Audrie and Daisy"— which made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival — takes a hard look at American’s teenagers who are coming of age in this new world of social media bullying, spun wildly out of control.
Having just viewed the documentary, I would say that the film is less about the video (which apparently is never recovered by law enforcement, but only rumored) and the power of social media and more about the sexual assaults themselves.  It is also, critically, about how local, nonmetropolitan law enforcement and prosecutors (mis) handle the case.  Among the apparent reasons for that mishandling:  Not just patriarchy in a raw rural form, but the different social status of the victims' families compared to that of the accused young men, who are also athletes.  The film also depicts the intervention of Anonymous, which seeks to compel local prosecutors to pursue the case more vigorously.

I'm not sure what conclusions we can fairly draw from these three stories except that rural places seem to be less hospitable than urban ones--at least by some measures--for teenage girls.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The rural vote in the 2016 US Presidential election

Diamond Springs (El Dorado Co.), California, exurban Sacramento Nov. 2016
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt
After a seven-week hiatus from the blog, I'm depressed to be returning with this topic:  How rural America veered even more sharply Republican in 2016 than in recent past presidential elections.  Indeed, to be more blunt, I'm writing about how much of rural "white" America helped make Donald Trump president-elect.  It's been nearly a week since the election, and here's what the pundits and analysts are telling us about the rural vote.

Let me start with the Daily Yonder, which by Thursday had posted this.  The take away from Bill Bishop and Tim Marema's piece:
Donald Trump won the presidency with a surge of votes from rural counties, small towns, and medium sized cities. Democrat Hillary Clinton’s vote outside the nation’s largest metropolitan areas dropped precipitously from Democratic returns in 2012.
The data graphs accompanying the story indicate that Obama got 37.7% of rural voters in 2012, while Clinton got just 29.4% in 2016.  As for micropolitan areas (small cities), Obama got 40.5% to Hillary's 33%.
Democrats saw big declines in their percentage of the vote outside the cities. (See chart.) Republican Trump, meanwhile, had a nearly 7.3 million vote deficit in metropolitan areas almost erased by totals in rural counties and counties with towns under 50,000 people.
The Yonder story quotes Prof. James Gimpel, a political scientist at the University of Maryland:
From a geographic standpoint, the Trump-Clinton contest was more polarizing than Romney-Obama, with bigger gaps separating the most urban from the most rural locations.  
Interestingly, some of the earliest analysis of the rural vote and its import for the 2016 presidential race came out of Australia.  The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Catherine Hanrahan focused on three Rust Belt states where Trump garnered relatively narrow victories:  Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Hillary Clinton's losses there--by a total of just about 110,000 votes--were fatal to her bid for the presidency.  The story was similar in all three states.  Clinton won the big cities, and Trump carried small cities and rural areas.  Here's what Hanrahan wrote about Pennsylvania, which mirrors what she wrote about the other states; only the numbers were different.
Once again, Mrs Clinton easily outpolled Mr Trump in the cities, by more than 215,000 votes. 
But in the regional towns and cities away from the metropolitan areas, Mr Trump polled around 270,000 more votes than his opponent, enough to secure victory. 
The extra 3,000 votes he polled from country voters only extended his lead in the State.

Pennsylvania has voted for a Republican president since 1988.
One widely-read story about the "why" of all this is the Jeff Guo (Washington Post) interview with University of Wisconsin political scientist, Kathy Cramer, who earlier this year published The Politics of Resentment:  Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.  Cramer explains that rural voters are alienated from urban populations.  A particular aspect of this resentment is against highly educated elites, perceived by rural voters as know-it-alls who want to dictate to rural folks how to live.  Here are some of the key observations:  
[Cramer] shows how politics have increasingly become a matter of personal identity. Just about all of her subjects felt a deep sense of bitterness toward elites and city dwellers; just about all of them felt tread on, disrespected and cheated out of what they felt they deserved.
Cramer argues that this “rural consciousness” is key to understanding which political arguments ring true to her subjects. For instance, she says, most rural Wisconsinites supported the tea party's quest to shrink government not out of any belief in the virtues of small government but because they did not trust the government to help “people like them.”
She continues:
Listening in on these conversations, it is hard to conclude that the people I studied believe what they do because they have been hoodwinked. Their views are rooted in identities and values, as well as in economic perceptions; and these things are all intertwined.
The New York Times Upshot also focused on the Midwest, noting that counties that swing most dramatically toward Donald Trump--by 15 points or more between 2012 and 2016--were in that region.  Emily Badger, Quoctrung Bui, and Adam Pearce write:
That abrupt shift was probably driven by numerous factors that are hard to untangle: weak economic prospects; Mrs. Clinton’s lack of attention to those places on the campaign trail; Mr. Trump’s xenophobic message to voters anxious about change.
But the widening political divergence between cities and small-town America also reflects a growing alienation between the two groups, and a sense — perhaps accurate — that their fates are not connected.
As the authors of the Upshot piece note, most of the change occurred outside major metropolitan areas, with more than 1800 counties moving at least 15 points away from Clinton, while only 15 counties "tilted by more than five percentage points" in her favor, compared to 2012.

The Economist got in on the analysis action with this short piece, "A Country Divided by Counties".   It concludes with this sober thought:
American politics appear to be realigning along a cleavage between inward-looking countryfolk and urban globalists. Mr Trump hails from the latter group, but his message resounded with the former. A uniquely divisive candidate, he is both perhaps the least likely politician in the country to build bridges across that gap and also the only one who has the capacity to do so.
Just thinking of the British perspective on the election is a reminder of Brexit and the rural-urban divide on that vote.  Read more here.

The New York Review of Books did a lengthy post-mortem on the election over the week-end, and it included some rural-urban analysis.  In particular, the piece by Elizabeth Drew includes references to David Wasserman's Cracker Barrel index.  That is, Wasserman, of the Cook Political Report, uses counties that have a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (n=493) as a proxy for the rural vote and those with Whole Food stores (n=184) as proxies for the urban vote.
 In 2012 Obama carried 75 percent of the counties that had a Whole Foods and 29 percent of the counties with a Cracker Barrel. But that spread was exceeded this year—in the other direction—with Trump winning 76 percent of counties with Cracker Barrel stores and just 22 percent of counties with Whole Foods.
Drew also quotes J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling Hillbilly Elegy and a widely quoted pundit on the white working class during this election season.  Vance weighs in on the cultural issues, some of which align along the rural-urban axis:
People who are drawn to Trump are drawn to him because he’s a little outrageous, he’s a little relatable, and fundamentally he is angry and spiteful and critical of the things that people feel anger and spite toward. ... It’s people who are perceived to be powerful. It’s the Hillary Clintons of the world, the Barack Obamas of the world, the Wall Street executives of the world. There just isn’t anyone out there who will talk about the system like it’s completely rigged like Donald Trump does. It’s certainly not something you’re going to hear from Hillary Clinton.
Note the similarities to Cramer's thesis.  Anger is central.  Differences in education matter--as does the perceived elitism--the disdain for rural and working class folk--of the narrating classes.  (I wrote about these issues, too, in my 2011 post-mortem on the 2008 election, The Geography of the Class Culture Wars). There I documented media depictions of rural people and places in the 2008 election cycle.  I also suggested that rurality has become a feature of identity for rural dwellers--a notion Kathy Cramer's work also confirms.

Of course, the rural-urban divide was played up explicitly and dramatically in the 2008 election cycle because Sarah Palin took up the mantle of Main Street and foisted that of Wall Street onto uber urban Obama.  The rural-urban divide wasn't so prominent in the 2016 election cycle rhetoric, but clearly the undercurrent of difference--and rural discontent--is alive and well.

One of the best pieces I read on the rural-urban divide in the United States before last week's vote was this one, by Colorado Public Radio, which I blogged about here.  It compared rural Rocky Ford with metropolitan Denver.

Meanwhile, back in California, I note that while Hillary Clinton carried the state handily, she lost in a number of nonmetropolitan counties, including those associated with the State of Jefferson in the far northern reaches.  (Read earlier blog posts about the State of Jefferson here and here).  The only coastal county that Trump carried was Del Norte, on the Oregon border, but he also prevailed by large margins in Siskiyou, Trinity, Modoc, Shasta, Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Amador, Calaveras, Tehama, Yuba, Glenn, Colusa, Sutter, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera, Kings and Inyo counties.  Trump also carried several largish metropolitan counties:  El Dorado, Placer, Kern, Stanislaus, and Butte. Defying the clustering, Mono and Alpine counties--with their tiny Sierra-Nevada populations--went for Hillary Clinton.

Shifting away from the self-declared focus on rural and low-income folks for a moment, it is also telling that Trump carried Placer County--an affluent urban/exurban county north and northeast of Sacramento.  Levels of education and income are high in the Roseville and Rocklin areas.  So, much as a great deal of news analysis is of the enigmatic rural and working class voters, exit polls (usual caveats apply) indicate that the income bracket from which Trump drew the greatest level of support was $50K-$99K.  For those in income brackets above $99K, Trump beat Hillary in every income bracket with far greater margins than he enjoyed from those in income brackets below $50K.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rural women in India pursuing urban dreams

Ellen Barry reported yesterday in the New York Times on a specific type of rural-to-urban migration in India--that of young women moving to mega cities for jobs in manufacturing.  In doing so, they move away from village life, which is very protective of young women and girls.

Here's an excerpt from this beautifully written feature, which begins with the girls entering a factory floor where garments are being sewn for Marks & Spencer:
The new girls smell of the village. ... The tailors glance up for only a moment, long enough to take in an experiment. The new workers — teenagers, most of them — have been recruited from remote villages to help factories like this one meet the global demand for cheap garments. But there is also social engineering going on.
Barry goes on to explain the motivation behind that social engineering:  India's gross domestic product would increase 27% if female employment were on par with male employment.  According to a 2012 survey, 205 million Indian women aged 15-16 "attend[] to domestic work."   Economists say that will have to change if India is to realize its potential.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Penthouse Populist" in U.S. News & World Report re Trump's appeal to the rural poor

Joe Williams reports this week in U.S. News & World Report under the headline, "Penthouse Populist:  Why the rural poor love Donald Trump."  Williams explores and tries to explain why the rural poor are attracted to Trump--or, just as tellingly or saliently--why they do not care for Hillary Clinton:
Drive an hour or two outside of any major U.S. city, however – Washington, D.C., for example – and campaign signs for Trump dominate the countryside: nestled in soybean fields and thick woods; beside two-lane highways and shotgun houses.

Support for Clinton is hard to find, if it exists at all.

"I guess I want to say it's not terribly surprising," says Lisa Pruitt, a faculty member at the Center for Poverty Research at the University California-Davis. "I would say it's not terribly unusual."

That's because, despite a strong grasp on rural poverty issues and more than a decade in the Ozarks, Clinton is an intellectual Democratic politician – anathema to God-fearing, gun-loving people in places like the Central Plains or down-east Maine. Voters in the American hinterlands don't much like where her party stands on hot-button issues like same-sex marriage, civil rights and abortion, and believe she's among the political elites who constantly look down on them.
Interestingly, just as Williams is pondering this question for U.S. News, I see that Arlie Hochschild has just published a book called Strangers in Their Own Land:  Anger and Mourning on the American Right.   This title is telling because it suggests--perhaps accurately--that the conservative Tea Party types Hochschild went to Louisiana to interview--and whose lives and opinions are the core of the book--have become the "strangers" in the United States, that they are no longer the default norm they were once seen as being.   More on Hochschild's book another day.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

More agricultural crime, this time in the pot biz

Two recent stories, one a feature and one breaking news, have highlighted the problem of human trafficking, sexual assault, and other ways workers in California's pot industry are abused.  The first is  Shoshana Walter's piece in Reveal, "In Secretive Marijuana Industry, Whispers of Abuse and Trafficking."  Walter writes from the Emerald Triangle of northern California, which generally refers to chunks of Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake and Trinity counties--a region where the pot industry has flourished, even before partial legalization (for medial purposes) in California.  (My students have written about the Emerald Triangle and the pot biz in No. Cal. on this blog here and here, and I wrote about it here.)  Here's a taste of Walter's story, which is nothing short of harrowing:
[T]he ancient forests here have provided cover for the nation’s largest marijuana-growing industry, shielding pot farmers from convention, outsiders and law enforcement. 
But the forests also hide secrets, among them young women with stories of sexual abuse and exploitation. Some have spoken out; a handful have pressed charges. Most have confided only in private. 
Students from the nearest college, Humboldt State University, return from a summer of trimming marijuana buds with tales of being forced to give their boss a blow job to get paid. Other “trimmigrants,” who typically work during the June-to-November harvest, recount offers of higher wages to trim topless.
During one harvest season, two growers began having sex with their teenage trimmer. When they feared she would run away, they locked her inside an oversized toolbox with breathing holes. 
Contact with law enforcement is rare and, female trimmigrants say, rarely satisfying.
As you can see, the story includes a good dose of how rural socio-spatiality conceals crime (among other things) and impedes law enforcement, which was the topic of my scholarly offering here.  Interestingly, in writing that piece, I got a great deal of push back about, well, how wrong I was.  Two arguments were common.  The first was, essentially, that everyone knows rural people are more law abiding than urban people, so why am I talking about rural crime and law enforcement.  The second--more apropos here--was that technological advancements will ultimately overcome rurality's spatial barriers, diminishing any rural-urban difference in this regard.  Reading stories like this one makes me want to say, "told you so"--though let me be clear that the consequences of these failures of law and law enforcement are not just fodder for academic debate.  These failures have devastating consequences for these especially vulnerable victims.

Just as I was fully digesting this feature, the Sacramento Bee and Capital Public Radio covered a story out of Calaveras County yesterday--breaking news about the arrest of two women who had kidnapped and abused four men in their pot operation.   Interesting that the gender tables were turned in this case (though the women reportedly worked with armed male guards to keep the victims captive). Again, the term "human trafficking" is being used in relation to these events.  The Bee's coverage is here, and Capital Public Radio's is here.

Finally, here is another recent story, this one from upstate New York, that illustrates well how rural spatiality can conceal crime and those on the lam, thus disabling the ordering force of law and undermining the rule of law.  I wrote about these events previously here.

And then there is this one out of central Minnesota.  Rural spatiality (and rural law enforcement) may have played a role here, too, just thinking about the ditch the boys were thrown into and the pit where Jacob Wetterling was attacked and initially buried.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How rural America fared economically in 2015

A few days ago, media were abuzz with the good news of the 2015 economic data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on September 13.  In short, the United States saw one of the steepest ever one-year drops in the U.S. poverty rates. The new data indicated that more low- and middle-income folks were seeing wage rises.  Read more here.

Yet initial reports indicated that the recovery was uneven:  while incomes in metropolitan areas grew 6%, those in nonmetro areas fell 2%.

One follow-up story that illustrated this unevenness, was by Binyamin Appelbaum, Patricia Cohen and Jack Healy in the NY Times under the headline "A Rebounding Economy Remains Fragile for Many."  Among others, they quote Ralph Kingan, mayor of Wright, Wyoming, in the state's coal-rich Powder River Basin:
We ain’t feeling too much of all that economic growth that I heard was going on, patting themselves on the back. It ain’t out in the West.
Coal mines there have laid off many workers in the wake of bankruptcies.  The story features rich vignettes and quotes out of Kentucky, too, linking the economic conditions these places to the current presidential campaign.

Shortly after these reports, however, the New York Times Upshot ran this headline on September 16, "Actually, Income in Rural America is Growing, Too."  In it, Quoctrung Bui explains that a change in the definition of "rural" accounts for the initial confusion over how folks in the hinterlands fared.  I would include an excerpt, but the explanation is not amenable to brevity, so you'll have to read Bui's story for yourself.  Bottom line:  "Median household incomes in rural America actually grew 3.4 percent in 2015."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On organized crime as agricultural crime in Italy

NPR ran this story yesterday by Christopher Livesay, headlined, "'Tough Guy' Farmers Stand Up to Italian Mafia--and Win."  The story features GOEL Bio, a consortium of organic farmers who work together to respond to agricultural crime by the Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta.  GOEL Bio does so by pitching in to help the victim.  Livesay features recent "victim" Daniele Pacicca, a farmer of organic olives in Stilo.
[Pacicca's] 1,200 trees are his livelihood. One morning this summer, he was shocked to find 13 of them had been hacked to the ground. 
"It was like a kick in the stomach," he says. "Look at them. I don't think it was an accident that they chose the most visible ones, closest to the road. Maybe someone was trying to teach me a lesson." 
Pacicca is pretty sure who that was: the 'Ndrangheta, the region's organized crime group. Typically when they attack a farmer, they'll do it again and again, until the farmer pays protection money and vows loyalty. 
But that's not what Pacicca did. 
"We cried out: Enough! This can't go on any longer with this mafia system," he says. "That's the idea behind GOEL."
* * *  
"They chopped down 13 trees, so we planted twice as many, 26," says Vincenzo Linarello, the founder of GOEL Bio. "The idea is to send a message right away that they can't stop us. And we'll get up stronger every time they strike. They work by sending signals. So we need to send a signal."
Another Italian agriculture story, this one in the New York Times about saving heirloom fruit trees, is here.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

On being a public defender in rural Louisiana

Here's a story in The Guardian today, about the sole public defender, Rhonda Covington, who serves  East and West Feliciana parishes in rural Louisiana.  Eli Hager reports:
At any given moment, she could be investigating cases, calling witnesses, scouring through evidence, taking photos at crime scenes (with her own camera), meeting with her clients’ families, writing motions, typing up pleadings, making appointments, answering the phones, answering the door, getting the mail at the post office, filling in timesheets, filing monthly reports, doing the accounting, paying the rent and utilities, cleaning the bathroom, dusting the furniture, sweeping and mopping the floors, taking out the trash, trimming the bushes, unclogging the plumbing, buying the toilet paper, or meeting with everyone arrested in a thousand-square-mile area just north of Baton Rouge, within 72 hours of their arrest.
East Feliciana Parish, population 20,267, with a poverty rate 20.4%, is 44% black.  West Feliciana Parish, population 15,625 with a poverty rate of 24%, is 45% black.  Both border the State of Mississippi and are part of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area.

This story is well worth a read in its entirety.  My analysis of spatial inequality with regard to delivery of indigent defense, with a focus on nonmetropolitan places, is here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

More on "white trash" and rurality in the context of this campaign season

The media continues to devote significant coverage to poor and working class white voters and their inclinations this election season.  Yesterday, linguist Geoff Nunberg appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, commenting on the wide range of derogatory terms for poor whites, with one mention of rurality.  The headline is "A Resurgence Of 'Redneck' Pride, Marked By Race, Class And Trump."  Nunberg notes that the New York Daily News has called Trump's supporters "bigots, bumpkins and rednecks" while the New York Post has labeled them the "hillbilly class" and "white trash Americans."  Here is an excerpt.  
Back in 1989, the historian C. Vann Woodward said that "redneck," is the only epithet for an ethnic minority that's still permitted in polite company.  He could have said the same thing about "hillbilly" or "white trash."   
* * * 
Over the years, Americans have probably coined more epithets for poor whites than for any other group, even including blacks. Rednecks and hillbillies, white trash and trailer trash, Okies and Arkies, peckerwoods and pinelanders, crackers and clay eaters, mudsils and ridge-runners and dozens more.
Like others before him, Nurnberg observes that Americans don't find class-based prejudice as problematic as racism.  He goes on at length about "redneck" in particular, linking it to the rural. Noting that "redneck" initially suggested a white laborer from the South, "it soon became a label for uncouth working-class racists from any rural region."

And then there is the migration of the term not just from the South to other regions but also from rural places to urban settings.  This second type of migration is addressed by J.D. Vance in his NYT bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy.  That rural-to-urban migration is also suggested in this Nunberg piece, at least implicitly, where he talks about white-collar jobs--and how some doing those jobs may be (re)claiming the "redneck" terminology.
 In his 1983 song "Just a Redneck at Heart," Ronnie Milsap explained that wearing a suit and tie to your corporate job didn't disqualify you from being a redneck as long as you kept a copy of Field & Stream in your desk. 
Nowadays, everybody is eligible — a few years ago Donald Trump Jr. told an interviewer that his love of fly fishing and bow hunting made him a closet redneck. At that point, redneck isn't a class, it's a lifestyle choice. 
But whoever is claiming the label, redneck pride is always infused with attitude. When you call yourself a redneck you're not simply proclaiming your authenticity — you're calling out the scorn and condescension of the people who use the word as a slur. 
That's why the word always sounds a little belligerent, and why it encapsulates the populist anger and resentment that the Trump campaign has stirred. As the Los Angeles Times' columnist Gregory Rodriguez put it, "You know you're a redneck when you're mad as hell and you just want to spread it around."

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rural prison building boom evolves into rural jail expansion boom?

That seems to be the second headline of the NYTimes Upshot story that I wrote about here regarding the fact that small-population counties are now sending folks to prison--or jail--for longer terms than their urban counterparts.  In fact, those being sentenced are not just going to prison--in some instances they are being sentenced to time in the local jail. This is being facilitated by jail expansions in places like Dearborn County, Indiana, which Josh Keller and Adam Pearce feature in their story.  Dearborn County, they report, has doubled the capacity of the local jail and also expanded the capacity of county courthouse, at costs of $11.5 million and $11 million, respectively.  Yet "money for drug treatment is scarce."  Keller and Pearce note that incarceration is frequently the "only well-funded response to a range of social ills, including drug abuse and mental illness" in places like Dearborn County.  Funding for drug treatment is scarce.  (I have written about this as a rural phenomenon here and here).  Although the vast majority of inmates (225 of 250) in the Dearborn County jail suffer from drug addition, the county's drug treatment program can serve only about 40 of them.

All of this makes me wonder about the extent of the "rural" jail building/expansion boom, a phenomenon that was the topic of earlier blog posts here (based on a story in the Times-Picayune, out of New Orleans, in 2012) and here (based on what has happened in my own home county in rural Arkansas).  This raises the question: to what extent are local governments being co-opted by private prisons and other forces to keep incarceration steady, if not on the rise, even as a "bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities."

Monday, September 5, 2016

On the lack of geographic (and other) diversity on the U.S. Supreme Court

Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times today about the "striking lack of diversity" among the eight justices who currently comprise the U.S. Supreme Court.  The relative lack of geographic and religious diversity are noted in particular, but the lack of cultural diversity is suggested by implication, as where Justice Kagan is quoted as mentioning that the Court may suffer a "coastal perspective."  The only Supreme Court justice not from one of the coasts is Justice John Roberts, who grew up in Indiana.  Judge Anthony Kennedy is the only justice from west of the Mississippi River.  He grew up in Sacramento, California.  
In remarks last week in Arizona and Colorado, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan ... talk[ed] about how a new colleague could reinforce or disrupt a court that is in some ways exceptionally homogeneous. 
“We’re not as diverse as some would like in many important characteristics — educational institutions, religion, places where we come from,” Justice Sotomayor said on Thursday at a judicial conference here.
Both Sotomayor and Kagan opined that "more diversity on the court would bolster public confidence in its work."  Liptak quotes Justice Kagan:
People look at an institution and they see people who are like them, who share their experiences, who they imagine share their set of values, and that’s a sort of natural thing and they feel more comfortable if that occurs.
* * * 
 It’s obviously true that people bring their backgrounds and experiences to the job in some sense.
I have previously mused on the lack of geographic diversity on the court--in particular the lack of a rural perspective--here, here and here.