The Enduring Price of Place: Revisiting the Rural Cost of Living

Julie N. Zimmerman, Karen Rignall, Cameron McAlister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Even as the 2016 elections brought increased public attention to rural life, stereotypes and misconceptions abound. One of these misperceptions is the generalization that prices are lower in rural areas. This article is a restudy of Zimmerman, Ham, and Frank (2008) research on geographic differences in the costs of living. Asking the same fundamental question—if someone bought the same thing in a rural and urban area, would they pay the same price?—and using the same methodology, the results 10 years later indicate that, contrary to popular perception, there was again no consistent pattern of lower prices in rural counties and no consistent pattern of a lower rural cost of living in all of the rural areas. While prices are only one piece of the larger picture of how rural households meet their needs, in addition to price differences, the results highlight how differences in rural life create additional costs that extend beyond prices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-280
Number of pages29
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank the community members in each of the counties that participated in this study. The authors would also like to acknowledge Jennie Allison, COLI Senior Program Manager, and Erol Yildrim, Senior Vice President, New Products at the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), for their assistance and support. This research was made possible through support provided by the Dr. and Mrs. C. Milton Coughenour Rural Sociology Professorship and the Department of Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky. Address correspondence to Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman, Department of Community and Leadership Development, University of Kentucky, 500 Garrigus Building, Lexington, KY 40546, USA. Email:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Rural Sociology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Rural Sociological Society (RSS).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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