Most rural areas are struggling with population loss and slow job growth, but a policy brief from a left-leaning think-tank, the Center for American Progress, aims to counter stereotypes and misconceptions about rural America and show that rural areas have assets they can leverage to encourage economic development, Bill Lucia reports for Route Fifty.

"What we’re trying to drive home is that rural America is not an economic liability," Zoe Willingham, co-author of the brief, told Lucia.

Some of the brief covers well-trod ground: "For example, the authors emphasize how immigrants moving into rural areas can help fill jobs and offset population declines, while noting the economic development potential of outdoor recreation on public lands and renewable energy programs," Lucia reports. "They also suggest that there are positive developments with farmers finding new ways to market their goods through local and regional 'food hubs,' and that there are options for small and medium-sized manufacturers to tap into global markets to sell specialty goods."

The brief is notable for taking into account the economic variation in rural areas. After the Great Recession, rural areas in the Great Lakes region, Nevada, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest fared better than the Great Plains, New York, and northern Pennsylvania. "Similarly, population declines in rural counties vary by region, Lucia reports. "Counties in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and Northeast have seen some of the biggest losses, while rural counties around the western U.S. and pockets of the Dakotas with energy-industry jobs posted gains."