Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2011


Great Plains Research Vol. 21 No.1, 2011


© 2011 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


"Hollowing out the middle" refers to the loss of the well-educated young adults in rural communities of America's Heartland-the Corn Belt and Great Plains. Declining rural communities invest their meager resources to educate their brightest youth, thereby providing them opportunities for rewarding careers in distant cities. This further contributes to the communities' woes because it guarantees not only population loss, but also loss of expertise and leadership that could help them solve their problems. Carr and Kefalas's contribution to understanding the dilemma of rural communities promoting and supporting the loss of the best and brightest is through an in-depth analysis of young adults' decisions regarding their futures and the role of local institutions and organizations, especially schools, in developing and reinforcing those decisions. They conducted a case study of Ellis, Iowa (a pseudonym), population 2,014, examining the decisions and actions of young adults who graduated from high school in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their research identified four paths or types: achievers, stayers, seekers, and returners.