Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version


Document Type



Cornhusker Economics (November 13, 2013)


Published by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics. Copyright © [2013] Board of Regents, University of Nebraska.


In a 2010 issue of Cornhusker Economics (October 27, 2010), we demonstrated the way in which the governance of public agencies and private nonprofits create an especially high demand for citizen leadership among smaller, rural populations. As noted in that report, it can be postulated that: “Population losses have left many rural communities with a shortage of residents willing and able to take on the public and volunteer leadership roles required to keep their communities running smoothly. As a result, individuals are often asked not just to participate in local government and voluntary organizations, but also to accept positions of authority and responsibility in their operation. The outcome, according to conventional wisdom, is that capable and involved citizens can be “burned out” by the demands made on their time, with local leadership often being left in the hands of a few individuals. This phenomenon, it is argued, can foster apathy and limit innovation, especially in rural communities where many public services are essentially run by volunteers.”

In this paper we explore this issue in more detail, asking if the size of rural leadership pools can be demonstrated to have an impact upon social capital and civic capacity.