MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State University sociologist Laszlo Kulcsar has led an international project that paints a picture of the unique nature of demographics in rural communities.
The book, called the International Handbook of Rural Demography, is likely to help small towns in Kansas and beyond to understand more clearly how they can preserve their local economy – and possibly even keep more of their own residents in the community.
“It’s the first handbook ever written on rural demography,” said Kulcsar, the book’s lead editor.
It’s also the third in a series of books on demography from Springer Publishing, but the only one that specifically addresses the characteristics of rural populations. Springer does not release statistics on its book sales, but Kulcsar believes the book is likely to be a success, selling particularly well in southeast Asia and India.
“Those are countries with larger rural areas than the United States,” he said, “and they often don’t have the resources to do research in this area.”
Kulcsar, a native of a small rural community in Hungary, was co-editor with a University of Wisconsin professor. They coordinated the work of approximately 40 rural demographers around the world – a number that represents almost half of all those worldwide who study this topic, according to Kulcsar.
Their charge, he said, was to write about rural demographics in their own countries, but from an international perspective, including rural demographics in the United States. This approach, Kulcsar said, not only provides a greater understanding of problems faced in rural communities throughout the world but also provides answers for local citizens and city planners.
For years, demographers have addressed fertility, migration and mortality in towns and cities. Rural demographers, however, take a more comprehensive approach, also looking at the effects of such factors as residential preferences, amenities in a community, natural resources, services, education, health services and more.
“You may think that people leave [rural areas] only because they don’t have enough jobs,” Kulcsar said. “That may be true, but it’s more complex than that.”
For example, a resident may choose to live in a rural area because the area has all the amenities they desire. Or, a resident may have a particular commitment to the culture of rural communities and to the identity it represents.
The issues in the book “are not Kansas-specific,” Kulcsar said, “but when you look at such issues as rural depopulation … some of the forces that trigger those dynamics are the same around the world. Now, understanding those forces, let’s see how other people have dealt with these problems.”
Kulcsar said he hopes the book will help to raise an appreciation for the people who live in rural areas: “The ways that people in rural areas care for natural resources – energy, food, water – will have important implications for people who live in urban areas. So, just because there are relatively few [in rural areas], we can not say those people are not important.”
Kulcsar’s lead in the project grew out of a multi-state research project that was partially funded by K-State’s College of Agriculture and the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.
The book is available online through Amazon.com or through Springer Books.