Adoption of economic development strategies in small towns and rural areas: Effects of past community action

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Rural studies

Publication Date


Date Added



Incorporating elements from both human ecology and the theories of local social interaction, the purpose of this study is to ascertain empirically the independent, additive effect of past community action in explaining variations in recent adoption of economic development strategies. I consider and control the effects of other structural and ecological characteristics of small towns and rural areas that have been shown to be important sources of variation in economic development strategies. Results of the hierarchical regression analyses indicate that past community action variables make substantial independent contributions to explaining variations in financial assistance to firms, creation or expansion of recreation-related activities, and creation or expansion of human services after considering and controlling for the effects of community need, socioeconomic status and ecological characteristics. Contrary to expectations, past community action variables do not make a significant contribution to variance explanation in promotion to recruit business and industry and the use of government programs to encourage economic growth, an action arena many discussions of rural development portray as necessary foundations for community development. From a practical standpoint, the findings of this study encourage efforts to initiate local actions and develop or maintain symbols of local identity. These can play paramount roles in the future, if not immediately, as residents of rural communities seek to attain shared goals.


Public Health