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Social Security Cuts Would Hit Rural Texans Disproportionately

November 10, 2011

LUBBOCK, Texas - America's small towns will be hit hardest by any cuts in Social Security, according to a new analysis by the rural news website the Daily Yonder.

Rural areas have a higher percentage of people who receive those benefits, the review says. Economist Mark Partridge at Ohio State University says the loss may appear small on an individual basis, but its reach would be broad.

"I don't want to necessarily say it would devastate communities, but I think small businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hardware stores - all of these are going to feel somewhat of an impact if a lot of their steady customers, the ones who spend their money locally, have less."

In metropolitan Texas counties, about 12 percent of the population receives Social Security benefits, while in rural counties that figure jumps to more than 23 percent.

The so-called congressional "super-committee" is expected to make its recommendations for spending cuts by Thanksgiving. Those cuts might include changes to Social Security, Medicare and other benefit programs.

Pam Danner, president of the Texas Rural Health Association, says she's betting that any program cuts coming out of the committee will hit rural Texas harder than urban areas - and not just because rural populations skew older...

"Because we have less representation in rural areas, then there is less of an emphasis on positive legislation in Austin and in Washington regarding rural issues."

Another factor, according to Danner, is that rural careers tend to lead to more disability claims and health-care expenses - and a higher rate of workers relying on the social safety net.

"Agriculture is in rural areas - and, therefore, agriculture accidents happen in rural areas. Oil is a dangerous industry. A lot of oil is in rural areas. Farming. Ranching. All in rural areas."

Rural hospitals often have larger percentages of patients on Medicare, she says, so cuts to that program would combine with the economic stress felt by communities if there are reductions in Social Security benefits.

More information is online at DailyYonder.com. Details by county and state are at msstate.edu.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX