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Abstract

This review outlines several key aspects of the new rural-urban interface and the growing interpenetration of American rural and urban life. The historical coincidence of spatial and social boundaries in America is changing rapidly. This review highlights () the enormous scale of rural-urban interdependence and boundary crossing, shifting, and blurring—along many dimensions of community life—over the past several decades, and () the symmetrical rather than asymmetrical influences between urban and rural areas, i.e., on bidirectional relational aspects of spatial categories. These general points are illustrated by identifying 10 common conceptions of rural America that reflect both its social and economic diversity and its changing spatial and social boundaries. Here we emphasize symbolic and social boundaries—the distinctions between urban and rural communities and people and the processes by which boundaries are engaged. Placing behaviors or organizational forms along a rural-urban continuum (or within a metropolitan hierarchy of places) or drawing sharp rural-urban distinctions seems increasingly obsolete or even problematic. We conclude with a call for new research on rural America and greater conceptual and empirical integration of urban and rural scholarship, which remains disconnected and segregated institutionally.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-soc-081309-150208
2011-08-11
2024-04-15
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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