WEST LAFAYETTE — Researchers at Purdue University are rolling out a series of publications to help state and local leaders better tackle quality-of-life issues facing people in the most rural counties in Indiana.
The “Rural Indiana” series through Purdue Extension explores how changes in population and other demographics are creating both barriers to progress and opportunities for the future in rural areas. Local leaders in rural counties have long been searching for solutions to problems stemming from poverty, an aging population, “brain drain” of young people leaving for opportunities elsewhere, and other conditions inherent with daily living there.
Fourteen percent of Indiana’s 6.48 million people live in counties that researchers considered the most rural. That list, which includes Carroll, White, Pulaski and Fulton counties, comprised 42 of the state’s 92 counties, according to a release from Purdue University.
The purpose of the research was to identify important concerns, such as those involving business development, education, availability of health care and healthy food — even limited access to broadband Internet services — to help policymakers in state government recognize the needs of people in rural areas.
“Hopefully, this will help provide new insights on specific issues,” said Janet Ayres, a Purdue Extension agricultural economics specialist whose work focuses on leadership and economic development in rural Indiana.
Ayres said local leaders might benefit the most from the research, spurring communitywide discussion of issues and helping to determine solutions.
“Local leaders need to delve more deeply into the trends in the community and what it means for their future so that the community can be better prepared,” said Ayres, who is overseeing the project that involves researchers throughout Purdue’s campus.
Seven publications so far have been published and made available for free at Purdue Extension’s The Education Store at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu. Among them: