Rural Research Briefs are a series of data and findings from the recently released decennial Census and American Community Survey (ACS), highlighting various social, economic, and housing characteristics of rural Americans.

Creating A Better Understanding of Farmworker Communities and Their Housing Conditions

Farmworker Dynamics Have Shifted Over the Last Few Decades

U.S. agriculture, a multibillion-dollar industry, has been made possible by cheap farmworker labor. As one of the most impoverished groups in the nation, farmworkers earn low wages and experience working conditions that hinder their ability to access affordable housing. This situation is further exacerbated by many legal, cultural, and geographic circumstances that often keep this population in the shadows of American society and contribute to their economic marginalization.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has undertaken a review of U.S. farmworkers and their housing to provide a deeper understanding of these individuals, their historical impact, and their quality of life within this country.

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HAC FW Rural Research Brief_Final_4.30.24

Taking Stock of Rural America



First published in 1984, Taking Stock is a decennial research publication of the Housing Assistance Council. The 2023 edition of Taking Stock continues this legacy of presenting social, economic, and housing trends for rural places and rural people.

In the early 1980s, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) published its initial Taking Stock report. This seminal work was one of the first comprehensive assessments of rural housing and rural poverty conditions in the United States. The first Taking Stock also exposed the plight and housing need of the nation’s high poverty rural areas. HAC’s decennial Taking Stock analysis continued in 1990, 2000, and 2010 and has increasingly expanded to cover a broader scope of social, economic, and housing trends in rural areas. The 2023 edition of Taking Stock continues its legacy of presenting a composite picture of trends and issues important to rural people, places, and housing.

The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America

Persistently poor counties are classified as having poverty rates of 20 percent or more for three consecutive decades. Using this metric, the Housing Assistance Council estimates there were 377 persistently poor counties in 2020 using data from the Census Bureau’s recently released 2016-2020 American Community Survey, the 2006-2010 American Community Survey and the 2000 Decennial Census of Population and Housing.

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An Update on Maturing Mortgages in USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program

Rural America is Losing Affordable Rental Housing at an Alarming Rate

USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing properties are an important resource for many rural households and communities. But the availability of these homes is declining. In 2016, USDA presented estimates of the date when properties would leave their portfolio and potentially lose affordability and some renter protections. HAC examined changes in USDA’s Section 515 portfolio during the past five-year period. The analysis identified 921 Section 515 properties that left the portfolio between 2016 and July 2021 – nearly three times the original USDA projection for maturing mortgages during the five-year period. The ramifications of this accelerated loss of affordable rural rental housing are important as the number of properties expected to leave USDA’s portfolio will grow exponentially in the coming decades.

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Appendix 1: List of properties that have left the program.


The United States is Becoming More Racially Diverse – And So is Rural America

Race and ethnicity are central and often complex components of our national identity, history, and struggles. Racial dynamics also manifest themselves in our geographies and communities. Rural communities across the United States are comprised of many races, ethnicities, and cultural histories that have been essential to the story of the nation. Contrary to the long-standing narrative of racial and ethnic homogeny across rural America, many racial and ethnic groups are represented in rural communities.

Using the Census Bureau’s recently released P.L. 94-171 Redistricting data, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) presents an initial review of characteristics, trends, and issues related to race and ethnicity in rural America.

COVID-19 in Rural America: Updated July 31, 2021

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) presents summary findings of COVID-19 and its larger impacts 528 days after the first identified case in rural America.

RURAL RESEARCH BRIEF: Housing Insecurity During COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of life and culture in rural America, and the economic fallout is most acutely felt through job losses. If rural unemployment rates remain high the collateral impacts to almost all sectors of the housing market could be substantial – notably the ability of unemployed households to make rent and mortgage payments. This Brief presents time series housing trends from the U.S. Census Bureau’s PULSE Survey. The Pulse Survey provides data to help understand the experiences of American households during the coronavirus pandemic.

Housing Change and Occupancy in Rural America

Housing Change and Occupancy in Rural America

Housing Change and Occupancy in Rural America

A community’s housing stock is one of its most important resources. The presence of high quality and affordable housing units reflects vibrancy and makes a community attractive for both current and future households and businesses. Housing influences everything from community services to health outcomes. The absence of affordable high-quality housing puts a strain on a community and its residents. A community can also be negatively impacted if too many housing units are vacant and property values are not sufficient to generate revenues for local services and to entice development and growth.

Rural Population Change and Growth Cover Image

Rural Population Change and Growth


Rural Population Change and Growth Cover Image

Population change has been a factor in the vibrancy and vitality of rural areas for generations. Rural population decline over the past few decades is well documented, but like the rest of rural America, this trend is not monolithic and some communities are experiencing growth. Both population decline, as well as population growth, drive significant impacts in rural and small-town communities.

Age and Aging in Rural America

Age and Aging in Rural America

Age and Aging in Rural America

We live in a multi-generational world which increasingly impacts every facet of society from healthcare to employment and housing. With the continued transition of Baby Boomers into older age, the United States is now squarely in one of the largest demographic shifts in our nation’s history. In rural America, the impacts of an older and aging population are even more pronounced. But, as is the case with other social elements, rural America is not a monolith and there are important dynamics in all rural age strata.