Fly-over country isn't just a geographic place, it's a state of mind. Unfortunately, in wealthy urban areas, it's how many view the individuals who are living at or near poverty.
Many of the adults in these communities are facing few employment options, they have little education, and are isolated. Some turn to opioids to medicate their frustrations, and that has resulted in the first time in decades that the expected lifespan of middle-aged whites without college degrees has declined.
According to poverty researcher Katharine B. Stevens. its impact takes a generational toll, affecting children in many ways.
They are poorer than their urban and suburban counterparts and more likely to live in deep poverty. About 80% of the 708 counties with persistent child poverty — defined as child poverty rates of at least 20% for the past three decades — are in nonmetropolitan areas.
In 2012, one in six young children living in nonmetropolitan communities had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder, with higher rates among children living in small rural areas (18.6%) than those living in urban ones (15.2%). The number of babies exposed to opioids in the womb and born with drug withdrawal symptoms (low birth weight, seizures, breathing, sleeping and feeding problems) has grown fastest in rural communities; rising by 750% in less than a decade. Soaring numbers of children — from New Jersey to Florida to Ohio to Missouri to Kentucky to West Virginia to Tennessee — are becoming orphaned or entering foster care because of their parents’ addiction to opioids.
Stevens said this forgotten segment of society needs more people who are willing to talk to it. She spoke to Chris Arnade, a former physicist and trader on Wall Street who is now documenting addiction and poverty in America.