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   Trends Affecting Our Towns

On this page, you can find factoids for:
Work Changing Our Towns
Our Changing American Cities
The New Face Of Rural America
Civic Life And Volunteerism In America
Corporate Volunteering & Corporate/Civic Partners
Resources on Our Towns
Featured Stories from "Our Towns"
Return to "Our Towns" main page

Work Changing Our Towns

Robin is a volunteer firefighter in Westminster, Maryland.

More than half of Americans do not work in the places they live. (
US Bureau of Census, 1990 Census, Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch, Place of Work.)

Manufacturing employment is expected to drop between 1996 and 2006, losing about 350,000 jobs, and will represent just 12% of employment in 2006. Mining employment will also decline by 131,000 jobs. (James Franklin, economist, Office of Employment Projections, (202) 606-5709; U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, "Special Issue - Charting the Projections: 1996 - 2000, Vol 41, 12-22-1997.)

In 1997, manufacturing represented 15% of employment. In 1970, manufacturing represented 27% of work, and in 1950, 34% of jobs in the US. (Bureau of Labor Statistics Establishment Data: Historical Employment, Table B-1, Employees on Non-farm Payrolls by Major Industry, 1947 to date.)

The 20 fastest growing industries are all in the service-producing sector, which in total will add 17.6 million workers to the workforce by 2006. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, "Special Issue - Charting the Projections: 1996 - 2000, Vol 41, 12-22-1997.)

Computer and data processing services is the fastest employment growth industry expected to double between 1996 and 2006, adding 1.3 million jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics New 1996-2006 Employment Projections, Table 4a.)

High-tech employment in the US, including manufacturing, communications services, software and computer-related services, employs about 4.3 million Americans. The high-tech manufacturing sector, of electronics, semiconductors, communications equipment, electromedical equipment, and computers and office equipment, is the top exports industry in the country and the largest US manufacturing base. (American Electronics Association, 1996, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data)

Over the past two decades, earnings inequality has widened in the US. Hourly wages of American workers in the top one-tenth of the workforce increased from $24.80 in 1982 to $25.74 in 1996, while hourly wages for workers in the bottom one-tenth of the workforce fell from $6.28 in 1982 to $5.46 in 1996. (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of the Cities, June 1998.)

Our Changing American Cities

Aerial view of a back-to-school rally in Seattle, Washington.

Cities contain 30% of metropolitan America's population and are home to half of all low-income families in metropolitan areas. From 1970 to 1997, 6 million middle-income and affluent families moved away from cities. (
US Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of the Cities Report, p.9.)

Suburban population is growing twice as fast as central city population, with suburbs growing 9.6% from 1990 to 1997, and cities, growing 4.2%. (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of the Cities Report, June 1998, p.8)

Central city employment is on the rise. Between 1993 and 1998, the number of employed workers living in central cities increased by 10.4%, or by almost 3.7 million people. Unemployment rates are falling in central cities, too, with an average 5.3% rate today, compared to 8.2% in 1993. (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of the Cities Report, June 1998, p.8)

In 74 US urban counties, over the next 5 years, there may be up to two job seekers for each low-skilled job nationwide. The number of current welfare recipients who will need jobs over the next 5 years is likely to exceed growth in low-skilled jobs by 353,000. (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of the Cities Report, June 1998, based on a report from the US Conference of Mayors.)

Urban redevelopment in the 1990s tries to capitalize on leisure dollars. To draw new jobs and tourist dollars, cities are investing in convention centers, stadiums, entertainment and sports complexes, pedestrian malls, waterfront developments, casino and riverboat gambling projects. (Walker, Sam, "Building Boom Reshapes City Skylines," The Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 18, 1997, p. A1; Smith, Sam, "Saving our Cities from the Experts," Utne Reader, Sep/Oct. 1994, p. 57.)

Many cities are building megaplex movie houses to bank on the $6.2 billion annual movie box office sales nationwide. In 1997, the US added 149 megaplexes, and the five largest theater chains will add 127 cinemas with 1,890 screens by the end of 1998. In total, there are about 28,000 theaters in the US, 21% more than ten years ago. (Holt, Nancy, "Attack of the Giant Theaters," The Wall Street Journal, March 4, 1998; Templin, Neal, "Movie Theaters Drive City and Suburb Development," The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 4, 1998.)

Americans spend about 240 hours total driving each year or six, 40 hour work weeks a year behind the wheel. (US Department of Transportation, National Personal Transportation Survey, 1995)

Commuters in one-third of the nation's largest cities spend more than 40 hours a year in traffic jams. (Texas Transportation Institute, "Commuters Face Growing Time Loss Due to Traffic Jams," Dec. 9, 1996)

The New Face Of Rural America

About 57 million people live in rural America, or about 23% of the total US population. (The Aspen Institute, Rural Economic Policy Program, Small Towns, Big Picture, 1995)

In the last 50 years, farming operations in the US have been more than cut in half. In 1950, there were 5.6 million operations compared to 2 million today. However, the average size of a farming operation today is 470 acres, double the size of the average operation in 1950. (US Agriculture Department)

Dr. Bob Stout leans against a fencepost in Alliance, Nebraska.
After years of population declines, Great Plains states' populations are leveling off and growing again. South Dakota's population has increased more than twice as much since 1990 as it did in the entire 30 years prior to 1990. Although its growth has been mostly in metropolitan areas, North Dakota's population grew 1.5% between 1991 and 1996. Kansas' rural counties have grown .3 % since 1990, compared to a major 7% population decline in the 1980s; and 17 of Nebraska's 52 rural counties have grown an average of 3% since 1990. (Center for the New West, Points West Special Report: 1997, Great Plains Economic Roundtable.)

Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Iowa have the four lowest unemployment rates in the US. And while the US average for per capita income growth between 1995 and 1996 was 5.6%; the average for North Dakota was 11.6%; for South Dakota, 10.4%; for Nebraska, 8.3%; for Iowa, 8.2%; and for Minnesota, 7.8%. (Center for the New West, Points West Special Report: 1997 Great Plains Economic Roundtable.)

In the Northern Great Plains states, including Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, 87% of companies are considered small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. In the future, these small firms may find it harder and harder to find capital and credit as banking institutions nationwide shrink and consolidate. By 2005, the US will lose between 5,000 and 7,000 banking institutions, including many local and community banks, down from about 10,000 banks in 1995. (Northern Great Plains Rural Development Commission, Business Development Strategy.)

Civic Life And Volunteerism In America

Ninety-three million American adults or half of all adults volunteer in their communities every year. Volunteers contribute an average of 4.2 hours per week, totaling 20.3 billion hours a year with an estimated dollar value of $201.5 billion. (Independent Sector, Give Five, 1995)

There are 19,447 civil servants working for the public nationwide today. Between 1996 and 2006, the US will add 1,700 government employees, most of whom will be added at state and local levels. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Output by Industry, 1986, 1996, and Projected 2006, Table 4)

Nearly 70% of American households make a contribution to one or more charitable organizations and the average contribution per household is 2% of annual household income. Americans give a total of almost $120 billion to charitable and community causes. (Independent Sector, Give Five, 1995)

Half of all Americans have never attended a town meeting, public hearing or public affairs discussion group. (The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Social Trust Survey.)

Boys tying knots on board a fishing boat in Morgan City marina.

Service-club groups are declining in the US. Membership of the Lions Club International today is at 477,000, down 11% in the past decade, but the Lions recently invested in a $3-million ad campaign to enlist new members. Kiwanis International, down 9% in the last decade, added its first marketing director in its 83-year history to boost sagging membership. The Elks' membership, at 1.2 million to day, has fallen 25% since 1980, but the organization is trying to update its image by changing ranking titles such as 'Grand Exalted Leader' to 'National President.' (Billitteri, Thomas, "A Tradition of Service in Limbo," The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 1998)

Six in ten teenagers do volunteer work. Teenagers who have positive role models are nearly twice as likely to volunteer as those who do not. (Independent Sector, Give Five, America's Teenage Volunteers, 1995)

US youth soccer has 2.4 million members today, up 1.2 million from a decade ago, and twenty times the number 20 years ago. (Stengel, Richard, "Bowling Together: Civic Engagement in America Isn't Disappearing but Reinventing Itself," TIME, July 7, 1996.)

Corporate Volunteerism & Corporate/Civic Partners

Nearly 70% of companies report that they include community involvement in their strategic planning processes; more than half say they have a separate community relations strategic plan. (Pioneers of corporate, community participation include, Timberland, which offers its employees one full week of paid leave time to perform service in their communities, and Allstate Insurance, in which over 25,000 of its employees have volunteered in more than 10,000 community projects nationwide.) (Business for Social Responsibility, "Community Involvement," based on research of the Boston College Center for Corporate Community Relations; Barlow, Brooks, and Rochlin, Lisa, "The Presidents' Summit, One Year Later," Who Cares Magazine, Mar/Apr. 1998.)

About 75% of companies with corporate-sponsored volunteer programs said such programs increased employee productivity. Over 90% said corporate volunteerism builds teamwork skills and a better corporate image. (Points of Light Foundation, and the Conference Board[9], Corporate Volunteer Programs Benefits to Business, May 1993, based on data from 454 companies representing all industry sectors .)


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