Document Type

State of the Science Report


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



Demography, Population, and Ecology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Our physical communities – the places we live and the people with whom we live – shape our lives. Often, our communities choose us; we are born into them, and we simply stay because it is what we know. Some get to choose or create their community. Others choose or are forced to leave. Rural communities differ widely in their economic base, culture values and practices, and social structure (Flora, 1992). The rural economy influences the opportunities with which we are presented, which in turn influences whether we leave or whether we stay. But the economy and jobs are not the only factors. A community’s other resources such as social infrastructure, physical infrastructure, and governmental bodies build a community’s narrative. That narrative, the story we tell ourselves and each other about why we do what we do, is central to our experience of community. These forces also influence who stays, who returns, or who moves to a rural community (von Reichert, Cromartie, & Gibbs, 2009). Communities that create an environment where all can maximize their potential, which remove structural and social barriers to participation, enhance their ability to keep and attract residents of all abilities. Those who live in rural communities face continuing tensions between preserving a community’s heritage and adapting to circumstances shaped by global forces; between exploiting resources in a way that treats the community as disposable or regulating them in a manner that supports and sustains the community; and between open and inclusive processes or closed and discriminatory practices. While communities never proclaim themselves unwelcoming to people with different abilities, many in fact present a very unwelcoming structure.


community participation and individual living, state of the science report, community development, rural, disability


© 2012 RTC: Rural

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


Our research is supported by grant #H133B080023 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Dept. of Education.

Project Number