Forgottonia Profile: Census

To gain a better idea of what the 16 county region known as Forgottonia actually looks like, we compiled some data from the 2020 census.  Examine our Forgottonia 2020 Census Data Google Document that was compiled by local history students at Cuba H.S. Students explored demographic, social, and economic patterns that persist throughout all of Forgottonia. You can explore more census data by visiting the U.S. 2020 Census Bureau Data

Why is the census important? Before breaking down the census results, it’s necessary to understand why the census is important. Here are a few important points to consider from the US Census Burea’s own response to this question

  • APPORTIONMENT: The US Census determines the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next 10 years. Our latest census removed 1 representative from IL which impacted how Forgottonia would be divided amongst congressional districts. To view this new district map, check out Project 538’s page which also includes proposed changes for districting going forward
  • TO BENEFIT YOUR COMMUNITY: “The results of the census help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding, including grants and support to states, counties and communities are spent every year for the next decade. It helps communities get its fair share for schools, hospitals, roads, and public works.”
  • “The results also inform how federal funding is allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grant programs for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.”

FORGOTTONIA CENSUS RESULTS

  • The population of Forgottonia is 324,381. This is a decrease of 30,328 since the 2010 census. This reflects trends throughout rural America which experienced its first decade-long rural population loss in history.
  • The majority of Forgottonia (15 of 16) is losing population. The only county not losing population (Brown County), is also the most diverse.
  • To understand more about the contributing factors for this decrease, check out this article by demographer Kenneth Johnson. KEY POINTS of this article include:
    • “Nonmetropolitan America experienced an overall population loss for the first time in history. Population losses were greatest in rural counties that were far from metropolitan areas and did not include a large town.”
    • “The economic turbulence of the Great Recession and its aftermath had significant repercussions for rural America.” 
    • “The onset of Covid generated additional social, economic, and epidemiological turbulence that significantly increased rural deaths and discouraged births. If rural outmigration is ongoing, and deaths continue to exceed births in many rural areas due to low fertility and higher mortality among the aging rural population, then population losses are likely to continue in much of rural America.”
    • “Such depopulating rural counties face significant challenges maintaining critical infrastructure needed to provide quality health care, education, and a viable economy for the remaining residents.”
    • “The demographic changes that are reshaping nonmetropolitan areas are important to contemporary policymaking intended to increase the viability of rural communities and enhance their contribution to the nation’s material, environmental, and social well-being.”
  • All 16 counties in Forgottonia have a median income below the national average ($67,521). To understand more about poverty impacting rural America, check out this article about rural Poverty from the Institute for Research on Poverty. KEY POINTS of this article include
    • Rural poverty is currently 3% points higher than urban poverty. Rural poverty rates have exceeded urban poverty rates every year since 1959.”
    • “High-poverty counties are disproportionally rural and continue to be geographically concentrated in Appalachia and Native American lands, the Southern “Black Belt,” the Mississippi Delta, and the Rio Grande Valley.” 
    • “While rural nonmarital childbearing, cohabitation, and single parenthood have all rapidly increased… Declines in earnings appear to be the most important factor in rising rural poverty rates, an effect that is twice as large for rural versus urban families.”
    • “Between 1979 and 2019, the top 1% of the income distribution saw their income increase by 229%. In comparison, rural skilled men have not seen their income change in the past 50 years.” 
    • “Persistently high child poverty is disproportionately concentrated in rural counties that have low labor force participation, low rates of educational attainment, high shares of single-mother families, and high shares of service industry (low-wage) employment.”
    • “Work, education, and marriage remain the three main pathways out of poverty for most Americans. Unfortunately, rural residents are falling behind urbanites in these three areas.”

       

  • All 16 counties in Forgottonia are far below the average for adults with Bachelor’s Degrees or higher (32.9%). The closest county to reflect the national average is McDonough County with 32.4%. McDonough County is home to Western IL University. It’s interesting to note that counties with the highest education achievement rates, also have the highest rates of poverty.  However…
  • The majority of Forgottonia (14 of 16) has higher high school achievement compared to the national average (88.5% of adults have a high school diploma or higher).  These numbers likely indicate investment in community college educations, trade schools, or other more blue-collar characterizations that have been essential throughout Forgottonia’s history.  These numbers indicate that education is valued and thriving in the area, and blue-collar professions continue to be an enormous part of Forgottonia history and culture. However, challenges remain as rural western Illinois grapples with how to adapt to enormous 21st-century technological changes.
  • This issue is perhaps seen by our high school’s new “mascot” created for a new tri-school football coop.  The mascot for the area schools (Cuba, Lewistown, and Spoon River Valley) will be the “Miners.” While the history and culture of mining in our community is undeniable, future employment opportunities in this industry is unlikely to initiate or sustain community growth.  Here are further KEY POINTS from the Institue for Research on Poverty:
    • The proportion of rural men who have earned a college degree has remained at about 15% since the 1980s.”
    • “The gap in college attainment between urban and rural men has increased from about 5 percentage points to about 20 percentage points between 1967 and 2016. Rates of college attainment among rural women have been steadily increasing over the decades, but they have not kept pace with increases in rates of college attendance among urban women.” 
    • “Marriage rates in the United States overall have dropped over the past five decades, but particularly for rural families headed by parents with low levels of education.”
  • The majority of Forgottonia is white (76.3% of Americans are categorized as white alone on the census).   Understanding race through the U.S. census has always been a difficult and changing concept, and this census is no different. However, despite new and improved ways of measuring racial perceptions, it is clear that Forgottonia contains higher than average levels of “white alone” population (15 of 16 counties have a much higher than average “white alone” population). It is interesting to note that the only county in Forgottonia to come close to this average (Brown County, 78.5% white alone), is also the only county growing in population. This could be a key indicator of future efforts to invest in community growth.   
    • “People of color are at an economic disadvantage compared to whites throughout the U.S., but this inequality is typically even greater in rural areas than in urban areas.”
    • “People of color are more likely than whites to be persistently poor (as measured by being poor over a two-year period) in both urban and rural settings.”
    • “Immigrants increasingly are becoming isolated in high-poverty neighborhoods in rural.”
  • The majority of Forgottonia (15 of 16) has below-average internet access.  As of 2018, 85% of Americans have a broadband internet subscription. These numbers, however, do not reflect QUALITY internet access.  As our recent pandemic demonstrated, access to the internet and access to a reliable internet connection are two different measurable concepts.  The following newsletter from Mile Markers by national reporter Nick Fouriezos shows how strategies aimed at addressing this issue are not doing enough: 
    • The pandemic drove the private sector to offer help. Congress, too, set aside billions of dollars for rural communities through the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Even in the last few months, the Biden administration announced a Rural Playbook and a $45 billion “Internet for All” initiative, promising to bring “affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to everyone in America.” 
    • But as I’ve reported from rural districts across the nation, it’s become clear that all those efforts still won’t be enough for the poorest and most remote counties in America. Persistent, sometimes hidden, barriers continue to stall progress, from finicky hotspots and disorganized officials to faulty federal maps and grants that don’t consider affordability in their equations
  • The majority of Forgottonia (15 of 16) can be considered aging (this means most counties have more than 16% of people over the age of 65).  These numbers likely reflect the deindustrialization that has been occurring for some time throughout Forgottonia. They also reflect the growing number of young people exiting the state (rural youth are among the largest demographic to leave Illinois).  While these numbers indicate that we must include rural youth in our economic and social investments throughout Forgottonia, they also indicate a great opportunity for making connections between rural youth and the elderly. There are countless “Forgotten” stories and all kinds of wisdom from life experiences just waiting to be shared. Hopefully, our Forgottonia Project podcast will capture more and more of these experiences.
  • The majority of Forgottonia (12 of 16) spend less time commuting to work (26.9 minutes is the national average). While this seems a bit surprising, note that these numbers are measured in minutes not miles. It’s likely many rural workers travel further, but spend less time in traffic. It also could reflect a growing population of online or self-employed workers living in rural Forgottonia.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS by the Institute for Research on Poverty

  • CHANGING THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET: One example of this is to lessen the work requirements that typically accompanied government assistance. These requirements are particularly difficult for rural residents who have “limited work options.”
  • EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT (EITC): “Many rural economies could be boosted, as some advocate, through a geographically targeted Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), wage subsidies, and small business development. However, some researchers have raised the concern that the benefits of such policies tend to accrue to the financial elite rather than struggling families.”
  • EXPAND BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS: “Increased communications technology would enable online education, which provides a potential way to facilitate jobs training in remote rural places. Internet access would also facilitate telecommuting and perhaps allow high skill workers to still reside in more remote places and engage in some of these high skill jobs via telecommuting.”
  • MORE RESEARCH: Since there are many challenges to making progress, another idea is to call for more research. For instance, “education and training programs are slow to work and expensive to run…migration subsidies to help rural workers move to places with more jobs don’t have a lot of participation, etc.
  • NO ONE-SIZE FITS ALL SOLUTION: “Addressing poverty and low employment in rural areas is complicated by the high degree of variation in demographic characteristics of the rural population and the economic outcomes in rural communities across the country. Given this wide variation, one single intervention is unlikely to work in all places and success stories from one community can be difficult to replicate in other areas of the U.S.

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