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A USDA Report on Creating Wealth in Rural Communities

Full resource: USDA’s Rural Wealth Creation: Concepts, Strategies, and Measures

Date published: 2012
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: John Pender, Alexander Marré, and Richard Reeder

In recent years rural development researchers and practitioners have argued that investing in a broad range of assets is essential for securing long-term economic growth in rural communities. Economic well-being has broad-ranging impacts, from improving local resilience to enhancing people’s welfare. These are critical issues, but very little work has been done to better conceptualize and measure rural wealth creation. This report fills that knowledge gap.

Although many Federal and State programs are concerned with wealth creation, this report focus on the local and regional approaches which are better tailored to the diverse challenges that rural communities face. Importantly, it explains that no wealth creation strategy will work in all contexts, so communities need to develop a capacity to identify strategies that are best suited to their own local priorities and assets.

While the report is detailed, it presents its framework clearly, and includes helpful diagrams as well as additional resources for support. It firstly defines wealth and why it is especially important in rural communities. It then describes measures for creating wealth, such as economic developments strategies, formulating a local development strategy, and using wealth creation approaches to combat poverty. It also examines why and how wealth indicators can be measured, followed by descriptions of measurement techniques, including monitoring interventions and assessing impact. 

Overall, the report finds that: rural wealth creation is highly context-dependent; different types of capital are often complementary;  investments always involve economic risks and diversifying the portfolio of investments may help to reduce such risks; local ownership can contribute to increased local returns from investments (but involves risks); and that it’s important to consider the multiple types of outcomes that can result from any investment, such as environmental and social impacts.

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