More than thirty million Americans live in small, out-of-the-way places. Many of them could have joined the vast majority of Americans who live in cities and suburbs. They could live closer to more lucrative careers and convenient shopping, a wider range of educational opportunities, and more robust health care. But they have opted to live differently. In Small-Town America, we meet factory workers, shop owners, retirees, teachers, clergy, and mayors--residents who show neighborliness in small ways, but who also worry about everything from school closings and their children's futures to the ups and downs of the local economy. Drawing on more than seven hundred in-depth interviews in hundreds of towns across America and three decades of census data, Robert Wuthnow shows the fragility of community in small towns. He covers a host of topics, including the symbols and rituals of small-town life, the roles of formal and informal leaders, the social role of religious congregations, the perception of moral and economic decline, and the myriad ways residents in small towns make sense of their own lives.
Wuthnow also tackles difficult issues such as class and race, abortion, homosexuality, and substance abuse. Small-Town America paints a rich panorama of individuals who reside in small communities, finding that, for many people, living in a small town is an important part of self-identity.
Robert Wuthnow is the Gerhard R. Andlinger '52 Professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University. His books include Rough Country: How Texas Became America's Most Powerful Bible-Belt State, Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America's Heartland and Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s (all Princeton).
List of Figures vii List of Profiles ix Preface xi 1- Introduction 1 2- You Have to Deal with Everybody: The Inhabitants of Small Towns 17 3- Going to Be Buried Right Here: How Residents View Their Towns 51 4- Community Spirit: Small-Town Identities That Bind 101 5- The Frog Pond: Making Sense of Work and Money 139 6- Leadership: Earning Respect, Improving the Community 177 7- Habits of Faith: The Social Role of Small-Town Congregations 217 8- Contentious Issues: The Moral Sentiments of Community Life 263 9- Washington Is Broken: Politics and the New Populism 291 10- Keep Your Doors Open: Shaping the Future 319 11- Concluding Reflections: Community in Small Towns 341 Afterword 361 Methodology 365 Notes 391 Selected Bibliography 449 Index 469