Undercover Economist: Why the rural idyll doesn’t come cheap

My mother-in-law’s favourite complaint is that the government ignores the interests of rural communities in favour of cities. I was reminded of that view when reading a recent report from the UK’s “Rural Advocate”, a government appointee whose job is to worry about such things. Stuart Burgess argued that rural areas were not living up to their potential, in part because of a lack of government support.

This isn’t a uniquely British trait. Proclaiming support for rural areas is de rigueur for a US presidential candidate. (Barack Obama: “If Washington continues policies that work against America’s family farmers, our rural communities will fall further behind.” John McCain, although lukewarm on government-funded anything, would make an exception for better internet access: “Government has a role to play in assuring every community in America can develop that infrastructure.”)

But who really gets the bad deal: the rural hicks or the city slickers? Urban areas are, on average, richer than rural ones, but it is a real stretch to blame that fact on a lack of government support.

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Tim Harford’s blog

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.