Men are making up a larger and larger amount of rural communities in plains states like Kansas and Nebraska, according to new research out of the appropriately placed University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This as the communities themselves are getting smaller and smaller.
The problem? While the young men who leave e.g. Nebraska's Blaine Township for school will often return home, young women won't.
"Where some of the men can come back, because there are a lot of traditionally male jobs like agriculture and industry to return to, many rural communities don't often provide the same opportunity to women," said researcher Robert Shepard, whose work is being published in the journal, Great Plains Research.
Below: Blaine Township in Kearney County, Nebraska.
Examining census data from 2000 and 2010, Shepard found that more than half of 1,627 villages, rural townships, precincts and other locales with 800 or fewer people experienced an increased ratio of young men to young women.
So what gives? Shepard suspects it's a combination of greater job opportunities for women in more urban enclaves combined with a certain attitude in the hinterlands that's kind of old-fashioned, truth be told.
In previous studies exploring women's attitudes toward the rural Great Plains, some women reported limited job opportunities, while others described a patriarchal culture in some rural communities.
The Bachelor Boom in the Upper Heartland. It's a Regional "Affair"
On a related though somewhat lighter note, North Dakota's oil boom has led to what Maya Rao at The Awl calls a "bachelor boom" of epic proportions. It's prompting men to be "alpha to the max" in the face of so much competition, with not always awesome consequences - "Hey Foxy!" - for the handful of women around. Though men are fretting too, of course. From Rao's firsthand account:
In Williston, the women sometimes sounded like stereotypical men - casual about committing, feeling no pressure to lock a guy down - while the men sat around like aging, anxious single women fretting that the opposite sex had too many choices.
The ratio of men to women is nearly a legend. Some say it's two or three to one. One drunk man on the dance floor at DK's Lounge and Casino swore up and down to me that it was 153 to one.
Below: Oil workers in Williston, North Dakota.
According to Rao, "Married or single, ugly or beautiful, old or young, a woman here is in high demand."
So that's the word from the middle of the country. On the edges, there's an app for that.