Life in LeClaire, Grand Mound, Fruitland Subject of Study

May  28, 2014

      Life in LeClaire, Grand Mound, Fruitland, and Iowa's other small towns will be the focus of national research. Thanks to help from the USDA, researchers at Iowa State University will study life in 99 rural communities. ISU's Department of Sociology began the study in 1994, and revives the study every ten years. Dr. Terry Besser has been involved in the project from the beginning. She says small towns have played a key role in the history of the state. Today, they're home to almost half of Iowa's population. 

      "There's a pretty significant group of people who live in the metropolitan areas, who'd probably move to small towns if they could. So knowing what life is like in that town, what are the challenges to that life, what are the possible strategies for success, I think that is just critically important to understand."

      The study will focus on most elements of small town life, including jobs, government services, law enforcement, cultural activities, childcare, and civic organizations.  Besser says over the past twenty years, small town life in Iowa and across the country has changed significantly. For example, there are fewer jobs. 

      "In a place like LeClaire and maybe Grand Mound and Fruitland, too, they're commuting for jobs, but they do most of their shopping in maybe one of the cities in the Quad Cities. They maybe come in there to go to cultural events, and that means they probably know their neighbors less than they would have 50 years ago when they might've had a job in town."

      The Iowa State University Department of Sociology plans to distribute random surveys this week to 15,000 residents in 99 small towns. The researchers then will visit some of them to conduct field research and plan to issue a final report sometime next year.

(Photo: Dr. Terry Besser, Iowa State University Department of Sociology. Courtesy of Bob Elbert.)