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New Book Examines Virginia's Urban-Rural Divide

The divide between urban and rural parts of Virginia is a frequent source of tension at the General Assembly. Now, a group of academics and business leaders is taking a look at that divide and what we can learn from it.

Voters in southwest Virginia often end up voting against their own economic self-interest; supporting politicians who promise to do things like ban critical race theory or oppose federal spending programs that could benefit their communities. That's the conclusion of Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington.

"They win on cultural issues: support for guns, opposition to abortion, opposition to gay rights. Now, this doesn't put food on the table," Farnsworth explains. "This doesn't put a dent into the health care bill that you might end up with if you get sick. But it does allow you to participate in what increasingly is a trench warfare politics both nationally and in Virginia."

Farnsworth and his colleagues Stephen Hanna and Kate Seltzer wrote a chapter of a forthcoming book that examines the urban-rural divide. John Provo at Virginia Tech's Center for Economic and Community Engagement says the book is aimed at building connections.

"We'd love to see more dialog around what urban and rural really mean," Provo says. "About how we use terms and misuse those terms in what one of my colleagues referred to as the era of fast policy."

The book, Vibrant Virginia, will be out this fall, and it'll include chapters on broadband expansion, economic development and inter-jurisdictional conflict.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.