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The Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Economies
Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021
12:15 PM - 2:15 PM (EST)
Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
West Virginia University
What Does COVID-19 Tell Us about the Digital Divide?
COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on the digital divide, particularly between lower income rural communities and higher income urban communities. With the “COVID-19 shutdown” nonessential workers were told to telecommute, or work from home, and students moved to on-line learning as schools shuttered their doors. Both telecommuting and on-line learning presumes that workers and students have access to reliable and affordable broadband internet. There is, unfortunately, a large digital divide not only across the rural-urban spectrum but also based on income. For rural areas the broadband debate has exclusively been focused on one of access, or the lack of investment in the “last mile”, but relatively new Census data suggests that for low income rural residents, it is not only a question of access (e.g., the last mile) but also affordability. This study merges the latest American Community Survey data on internet access with the most recent FCC data to revisit the digital divide in light of the COVID-19 economic shutdown.
The Impacts COVID-19 on Liquor Purchases
This paper analyzes liquor consumption changes from COVID-19. Our data set contains bar/restaurant, and retail liquor sales by month in the state of Idaho. We estimate aggregate changes in wholesale and retail sales for both rural and urban areas. We find, controlling for persistent seasonal fluctuations in liquor consumption, that retail liquor sales surged during height of the COVID-19 shutdown (March, April and May of 2020) at the same time that bar and restaurant sales declined. As bars and restaurants started opening back up in June, July, and August of 2020, bar and restaurant sales recovered to pre-pandemic levels while the increased retail sales persisted statewide. However, some substantial differences were seen the response between urban and rural areas.
Industrial Composition, Self-Employment and Rural Economies in the Time of COVID-19
The economic disruptions following both the spread of COVID-19 and the associated economic shutdowns were especially hard on small businesses and on the energy and tourism sectors. Prior to the pandemic, there is evidence that these same industries and businesses were having a positive impact on the economic outcomes of rural areas, specifically in places with a history of economic distress. The stay-at-home orders and temporary closing of schools and other businesses led both to a drop in oil and gasoline demand, and a decline in electricity demand which hit coal particularly hard. It also affected natural gas, which was already suffering due to historically low prices. The drop in travel and traffic to restaurants, hotels, and other tourism businesses was especially a problem in areas with high levels of natural amenities. These declines were exacerbated by a lack of adequate internet capabilities. Using detailed industry-level data on employment and self-employment, we consider how COVID-19 has impacted rural economies and what the path back might be for these communities.
Federal Reserve Board