Date of this Version
Nebraska’s economy and population have shown growth during recent years. Agricultural producers are experiencing change as well with the implementation of a new farm program. How have these changes affected rural Nebraskans at a local level? How do they perceive their quality of life? Do their perceptions differ by the size of their community, the region in which they live or by their occupation?
This report details results of 4,196 responses to the 1998 Nebraska Rural Poll, the third annual effort to take the pulse of rural Nebraskans. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their general well-being and their satisfaction with specific aspects of well-being. Trends are examined by comparing data from the two previous polls to this year’s results. In addition, comparisons are made among different subgroups of the respondents, e.g., comparisons by age, occupation, income, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
•Rural Nebraskans show continued optimism about their current and future situations. In 1996, thirty-six percent of the respondents said they were better off compared to five years ago. This increased to forty-one percent in 1998. This pattern continued when asked how they thought they would be ten years from now. Thirty-two percent believed they would be better off ten years from now in 1996; in 1998, forty-two percent thought they would be better off.
•More than half of rural Nebraskans are very satisfied with the following: their marriage, their family, and greenery and open space.
•Items receiving the highest proportion of very dissatisfied responses include financial security during retirement, current income level and job opportunities for the respondent. The rank ordering of these items has been relatively stable since 1996.
•Farmers and ranchers are not as optimistic about the future as respondents with other occupations. Only thirty-one percent of farmers or ranchers felt they would be better off ten years from now, compared to fifty-one percent of the respondents with professional/administrative occupations.
•The belief that people are powerless to control their own lives is affected by size of the respondent’s community, household income, age, and education. A multiple regression analysis revealed that respondents living in smaller communities, those with lower income levels, older respondents, and those with less education were the groups most likely to think that people are powerless.
•Overall, household income, age and occupation (whether or not a farmer) affect general well-being. Multiple regression analyses revealed the primary influences on well-being were household income, age and occupation. As age increases, well-being scores decrease. Household income had a positive relationship with well-being; as income levels increase so do well-being scores. Farmers report lower well-being scores than non-farmers.
•Farmers and ranchers were more likely than other occupational groups to be satisfied with clean air and water. Eighty-eight percent of the farmers/ranchers report being satisfied with clean air and water, compared to seventy-five percent of the manual laborers.
•Satisfaction with respondent’s housing was related to age. Older respondents were more likely to be satisfied with their housing compared to the younger respondents. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents age 65 and older stated they were satisfied with their housing; only sixty-eight percent of the respondents between the ages of 19 and 29 were satisfied with their housing.
•Respondents living in the North Central and Northeast regions of the state were more likely than those living in other regions to feel that people are powerless to control their lives. Approximately 35% of the respondents in these two regions agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that people are powerless to control their own lives, compared to twenty-seven percent of the people living in the Panhandle.