CARI: Center for Applied Rural Innovation


Date of this Version

July 2002


Published by the Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Copyright © 2002 by J. Allen, R. Vogt, S. Cordes.


Nebraska’s economy has experienced slowing growth rates this past year. However, it did not experience a downturn. How have these changes affected rural Nebraskans? How do rural Nebraskans perceive their quality of life? Do their perceptions differ by community size, the region in which they live, or their occupation?

This report details 2,841 responses to the 2002 Nebraska Rural Poll, the seventh annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions regarding their general well-being as well as their satisfaction with specific aspects of well-being. Trends for the well-being questions are examined by comparing data from the six previous polls to this year’s results. For all questions, comparisons are made among different respondent subgroups, i.e., comparisons by age, occupation, region, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:

Rural Nebraskans are more positive about their current situation than they were last year. This year, 37 percent state they are better off than they were five years ago. Only 32 percent felt this way last year. Twenty-one percent of this year’s respondents say they are worse off than five years ago, a slight increase from 19 percent last year. The percent responding that their situation remained the same decreased from 49 percent last year to 43 percent this year.

When looking to the future, rural Nebraskans are slightly more positive compared to last year’s results. The proportion believing they will be better off ten years from now increased from 34 percent in 2001 to 36 percent this year. Conversely, the proportion that believe they will be worse off decreased from 21 percent to 18 percent.

Rural Nebraskans are less likely to feel powerless as compared to last year. This year, only 30 percent agree with the statement that people are powerless to control their own lives. This compares to 35 percent who felt this way last year.

Farmers and ranchers are less optimistic about their current situation than persons with different occupations. Only 29 percent of the farmers and ranchers think they are better off compared to five years ago. In comparison, 58 percent of the persons with professional occupations say they are better off.

Persons with lower educational levels are more likely to believe that people are powerless to control their own lives. Forty-five percent of the persons without a high school diploma agree that people are powerless to control their own lives. However, only 19 percent of the persons with a four-year college degree share this opinion.

Respondents report being most satisfied with their family, their marriage, and greenery and open space. The items receiving the highest proportion of “very dissatisfied” responses include financial security during retirement, current income level and job opportunities.

Manual laborers are more likely than persons with different occupations to express dissatisfaction with their job opportunities. Sixty percent of the manual laborers are dissatisfied with their job opportunities, compared to only 33 percent of the persons with professional occupations.

Respondents living in the Panhandle are more likely than persons living in other regions of the state to be dissatisfied with their current income level. Forty-four percent of the Panhandle residents report being dissatisfied with their current income level, compared to 36 percent of the residents living in the Southeast region.