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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Donald Arwood


This study integrated rational choice and open systems theories to examine the effect of the rural environment on the strategies families used to make ends meet. The variations -in problems making ends meet in families were examined in relation to the urban-ness of place, poverty rates, household resources, the use of informal and formal supports, knowledge of formal supports, safe community, and medical conditions. The study utilized cross-sectional data from 265 families, which were part of a multi-state longitudinal project called Rural Families Speak. From a rational choice perspective, the structural constraints of living in a rural area, the obstacles faced by families, their household resources, and knowledge of formal supports determined the strategies the families used to make ends meet. The open systems perspective demonstrated that families responded to structural constraints and obstacles collectively. The combination of these factors also predicted the social outcome-problems making ends meet. Families living in communities with higher rates of poverty were more likely to be at an economic disadvantage and used both informal and formal supports to make ends meet. The rural-ness of the community, though, was found to be related to less use of formal supports. Families with larger networks of informal support had more knowledge of medical, clinical, and welfare programs, which in turn led to participation in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) participation. The occurrence of medical conditions was negatively correlated to having enough income on which to live and positively related to problems making ends meet. Mothers who perceived their co=unities to be a safe place to live experienced fewer problems with making ends meet.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Rural families -- Economic conditions
Rural poor
Social networks




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