Social Mobility In Rural America

HARTINGTON – An important part of America’s identity is the notion that if you work hard, a better future awaits.

According to a new nation-wide study from The Bridgespan Group and the help of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, that widely held belief is increasingly evading the nation’s young people, but in rural communities the opposite is true.

In a presentation held Friday afternoon in Hartington, representatives from the UNL Extension Office discussed the study.

One of the main findings puts Cedar and Knox Counties in the top 10% of all rural counties in the country in upward mobility for youth.

Jackie Steffen works for the Extension Office and says the results aren’t surprising to those who have lived in that part of the state.

“When I think about this report, sometimes I feel like It’s business as usual. So do I feel like there’s anything special? I was brought up here, so I just feel like it’s a way of life.”

Members of the public also had their chance to talk about the report and give their feedback.

Most were in agreement that the youth in Northeast Nebraska are busy enough to keep them out of trouble.

Steffen says that’s because of the active part the younger generation play in small towns when they’re not in school.

As one person in attendance put it, “It’s not what the kids should do, it’s what don’t they do?”

“You’re involved in the plays at school, you’re involved in sports, you’re involved in FCCLA [Family, Career and Community Leaders of America] and you’re just able to get a wide array of, kind of, skills by participating in a variety of activities.” Steffen says.

The talk also focused on what these towns can do in the future, to grow opportunities for kids thrive.

“The next steps are up to the communities. What can we do? Have we sparked an interest and maybe a certain avenue they would like to go down with the help of extension, with the help of other organizations in their communities as well.”

At the end of the presentation, all were in agreement that leaders in these towns need to lead by example and show the younger generation they can find opportunities anywhere they go.

Read the full study here.