How small-town America’s surprising success reshapes our understanding of the nation’s urban-rural divide

The United States today appears to be deeply divided. Journalists have painted a portrait of an enraged America, where poor, conservative small towns are at war with affluent, progressive cities. In fact, the nation is less divided by geography than many think.

In The Overlooked Americans, public policy expert Elizabeth Currid-Halkett breaks through stereotypes about rural America. She traces how small towns are doing as well as, or better than, cities by many measures. She also shows how rural and urban Americans share core values, from opposing racism and upholding environmentalism to believing in democracy. When we focus too heavily on the far-right fringe, we overlook the millions of rural Americans who are content with their lives.

A rigorous debunking of the conventional wisdom about America’s urban-rural divide, The Overlooked Americans offers an urgent call for Americans to reconnect with one another.

Praise for The Overlooked Americans

“The Overlooked Americans is a much needed reassessment of small town life in rural America. Elizabeth Currid-Halkett shows that Americans aren’t nearly divided by geography as the punditry and media would have us believe. This moving book is essential reading for all who care about the future of our country and its people.”

— Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis

“Elizabeth Currid-Halkett has long been a formidable observer of cultural trends, but with The Overlooked Americans, she deftly combines qualitative and quantitative research to create a riveting, clear-eyed, and often surprising portrait of small-town America.”

— Sloane Crosley, author of Cult Classic

“This is an essential book that will change the public debate on the state of the nation.”

— Manuel Castells, Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley

“This book by a leading scholar of regional development puts to rest, supported by empirical evidence, the damaging myths about people in rural America. Citizens in rural areas are, for the most part, educated, and civic-minded. Their quality of life appears to be higher than the average metropolitan dwellers, and they are not supporters of ideological and political extremism. Instead, they are hard-working and entrepreneurial, contributing to a healthy economy. This is an essential book that will change the public debate on the state of the nation.”

— Manuel Castells, Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley

“What is America really? Elizabeth Curid-Halkett pierces through the noise and challenges mainstream narratives with this timely, rigorous, and heartfelt analysis. The Overlooked Americans tears down entrenched definitions and stereotypes and builds a new image of rural America that is not hopelessly divided from urban America. Nuanced, cogent, and empathetic, this book deserves attention from politicians, pundits, and the public.”

— Jane Harman, USC Presidential Scholar, Former Member of Congress (CA, 36)

“The Overlooked Americans is a powerful antidote to the drop-in ‘diner interview.’ Currid-Halkett takes a sledgehammer of data to cherished myths about rural America and replaces them with empathetic portraits of complexity and contradiction. Her bottom line: America is not as divided as many Americans think nor in the ways we’ve been led to believe.”

— Philip Gorski, Yale University

“[Currid-Halkett] is right … that rural Americans are more racially diverse, more productive, and more broad-minded than the press and Hollywood would have us believe…. Rural America, moreover—she supports this claim by an array of statistics—compares favorably with big-city life in several important categories: home-ownership, employment, income equality, median income.”

— The Wall Street Journal

“This book was a thrill for me to read….a lot of what [Currid-Halkett] is talking about are things I’ve experienced coming from rural America…incredible research and data analysis.”

— Heidi Heitkamp, former U.S. Senator, North Dakota, C-SPAN

“Thoughtful, detailed, and thorough.”

— The Daily Yonder

“A lively dismantling of preconceptions about the rural U.S…. A hopeful and provocative analysis bound to raise discussion.”

— Kirkus (Starred)

“Elizabeth Currid-Halkett looks at the way we look at one another from a commonsense, down to earth viewpoint that doesn’t overtalk. Readers should know that there’s a large amount of science in this, and enough data to make a statistician happy, but it’s the interviews that stand tall and stand up for another way of thinking.”

— North Platte Telegraph, Nebraska

““The Overlooked Americans” educates, and it begs for tolerance, compassion and patience. It’s for grown folks who can see that anger and heel-digging isn’t anything to brag about anymore.”

— Keizertimes, Oregon

““I really wish that everybody in Washington, D.C., would read it, on both sides””

— Dominic Pino, National Review

Books by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett