Document Type

State of the Science Report


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



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


Economic development is a vast concept with an abundance of meanings depending upon the audience. A widely accepted view of economic development is as follows: In the United States with our market economy focus, economic development typically centers on increasing private business activity as a way to increase new investment, job creation and tax base expansion. Economies and economic development should serve the needs of residents and society through the creation of meaningful work. (RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, 2005) Historically, rehabilitation worked to restore as much lost function as possible so that a person with a disability could engage what was seen as a stable, unchanging world. More recently, the new paradigm of disability emphasizes that disability is a natural part of the human experience and that people with disabilities shouldn’t be treated as separate, as special, or as a commodity. With this change disability researchers, practitioners, and advocates recognize that disability occurs when the environment presents barriers to people’s participation in the community. In the disability context, environment is understood as the communities in which we live. This new view challenges our understanding of the place human diversity plays within a community and the degree to which community ecology is designed to accommodate participation in economic and civic life–aspects of the environment that can be modified to accommodate the goals of people with a variety of functional limitations. Although rural America is their home, living there can place those who experience disability at a disadvantage. Compared to their urban counterparts, rural Americans with disabilities experience higher rates of poverty, higher unemployment, and poorer health. One strategy for addressing these issues for rural residents is economic development.


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


© 2011 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