Hollowing Out America's Heartland
Storefronts in Calvert, Texas. (Flickr/rutlo; click for full image)

(Photo: Flickr/rutlo; click for full image)

For generations, small-town rural America was the iconic face of America. Main Street. Parades. Values. The heart of the nation. The ground beneath everything else.

Not now, says my guest today. Small-town rural America is hollowing out.

Corporate giants farm the fields. Small-town achievers run to the cities. And the heartland — the onetime backbone of the country — she says, is in trouble. Lights, going out. Leaders, leaving town.

Is she right? This hour, On Point: What’s going on with small-town rural America?

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Philadelphia is Maria J. Kefalas, associate professor of sociology at Saint Joseph’s University. She’s author of “Working Class Heroes” and “Promises I Can Keep.”  Her new book, co-written with husband Patrick J. Carr, is “Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What it Means for America.” Read an excerpt here.

Joining us from Des Moines, Iowa, is Ernest Goss, a professor of regional economics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He writes the Rural Mainstreet Index, a survey of key rural and small-town economic indicators, and is author of “Governing Fortune: Casino Gambling in America.”

And from Carroll, Iowa, we’re joined by Douglas Burns is a columnist for the Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa, a newspaper owned by his family. He moved back after working in Washington, D.C. for four years. 

In a guest post on the On Point blog, Burns makes his pitch for why living in rural Iowa is better: “The time other people spend driving we spend living.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 13, 2015
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, Syrian armored vehicles get ready to move near the village of Morek in Syria. The Syrian army has launched an offensive this week in central and northwestern Syria aided by Russian airstrikes. (AP)

Russia’s big power play in Syria, the US response, and where this could go.

Oct 13, 2015
The bare landscape of Crimea, Ukraine, offers little protection in warfare, and German infantrymen hug the ground to escape enemy fire, Jan. 7, 1942.  (AP)

We’ll talk with historian Tim Snyder, who sees resource wars behind past genocides and says climate change now raises the danger again.

Oct 12, 2015
A portion of the cover of Larissa MacFarquhar's new book, "Strangers Drowning." (Penguin Press / Courtesy The Publishers)

An extreme commitment to others. Larissa MacFarquhar joins us with stories of those who sacrifice almost everything to do good.

Oct 12, 2015
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman talks on his phone outside the newly constructed jail as prisoners are transferred into the facility in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP)

Step one in sentencing reform: 6,000 federal prisoners will go free at the end of this month. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Meet The Interns, Fall 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015

Meet our Fall 2015 interns! (Better late than never, right?)

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 9, 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015


More »
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment.

More »