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Rural areas suffer more military fatalities

Brief by Central Staff

Rural Population – December 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Rural areas are bearing a disproportionate share of the American military fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study by the Carsey Institute of the University of New Hampshire.

Based on casualty reports through 2006, the study showed that 825 military personnel from rural areas died in combat, as compared to 2,270 from metropolitan areas. But most Americans live in metro areas, so the death rate — the number killed per million of population — was 24 for rural areas, and 15 for metro.

Colorado had the same average as the nation for rural soldiers, 24, but the metro death rate was lower at 11.

Why the higher death rate for military personnel from rural areas? The study’s authors, William O’Hare and Bill Bishop, explained that it “is linked to the higher rate of enlistment of young adults from rural areas,” which is “possibly linked to diminishing opportunities there.”

They continued, “Industries that have traditionally sustained rural people and places — farming, timber, mining, fishing, and manufacturing — are employing fewer workers.” And “Enlistment in the Armed Forces can provide rural youth with a path to greater future opportunities.”

But those opportunities do not come without risk.