Sunday, June 8, 2008

Finally, "Rural U.S." gets the big NYT headline -- about fuel costs

Here's the headline for the top story on the NYT website right now:

Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average

The accompanying photo of a tractor suggests that this is a story about the impact that fuel prices are having on farmers and food production, but journalist Clifford Krauss goes beyond that angle to note the impact of high gasoline prices on commuting costs for rural workers, many of whom are employed in the poor-paying manufacturing and service sectors. Here's an excerpt from the story:
The disparity between rural America and the rest of the country is a matter of simple home economics. Nationwide, Americans are now spending about 4 percent of their take-home income on gasoline. By contrast, in some counties in the Mississippi Delta, that figure has surpassed 13 percent. 
As a result, gasoline expenses are rivaling what families spend on food and housing.
“This crisis really impacts those who are at the economic margins of society, mostly in the rural areas and particularly parts of the Southeast,” said Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service, a fuel analysis firm. “These are people who have to decide between food and transportation.”
Krauss reports that high fuel prices are exacting the greatest toll, relative to incomes, on residents in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Rural parts of the South are perhaps the hardest hit because of the scarcity of both jobs and public transportation, the length of commutes, and the age and size of vehicles. Rural Maine is only part of the northeast to be seriously affected.

Don't miss the terrific interactive graphic that accompanies the story. It illustrates both how low rural incomes tend to be, as well as the trend to higher gas prices in those areas.

I wonder where the story will appear in the California print edition I'll receive tomorrow (the link takes me to the Business pages), and I wonder what took the NYT so long to get to this story. (Note my post last week about a similar story in a national Canadian newspaper).

Addendum: The story appeared in the upper right corner of the front page of the CA print edition, with graphic appearing below; photos appeared with continuation of story on page 13.

No comments: