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WPA Archives - Rural Youth: Their Situation and Prospect


Summary xni
Chapter I. Distribution of youth 1
Effect of fertility rates on the distribution of youth _ _ _ 1
Effect of migration from 1920 to 1930 on the distribution
of youth 7
Distribution of youth, 1930 10
Replacement rates of rural-farm males 12
Rural youth in 1935 14
Trends in the number of youth after 1930 16
Chapter II. The economic situation of rural youth 21
Employment and income 22
Youth on relief 29
Employment opportunities 30
Within agriculture 31
Outaide of agriculture 36
Chapter III. Educational status and opportunities of rural youth- - - 41
Availability of school facilities in rural areas 41
School attendance of rural youth 45
Illiteracy among rural youth 47
Educational attainments of out-of-school rural youth _ _ _ 49
High school attendance mince 1930 51
Vocational training in rural schools 52
Chapter IV. Marriage of rural youth 57
Proportion of youth married 58
Rural and urban youth compared 58
Rural-farm and rural-nonfarm youth compared _ _ _ 60
White and Negro youth compared 63
Marriage during the depression of the early thirties _ _ _ 64
Chapter V. The use of leisure time 71
Rural change and the use of leisure time 71
Participation of youth in rural organizations 74
Informal leisure-time activities of rural youth 80
Crime and delinquency in rural areas 83
Chapter VI. Meeting the problems of rural youth 87
Governmental agencies 87
Cooperative Extension Service 88
Office of Education and the federally-aided high
schools 93
National Youth Administration 94
Civilian Conservation Corps 101
Works Progress Administration 106
Farm Credit Administration 108
Agricultural Adjustment Administration 109
Resettlement Administration 109
United States Employment Service 110
Nongovernmental agencies 110
Farm Bureau 110
Farmers Educational and Co-operative Union _ 111
National Grange 112
Wisconsin Farm Short Course 112
Cooperative youth clubs 113
Douglas County, Wis 113
Breathitt County, Ky. 113
Rockland County, N. Y 114
Private institutions serving rural areas 115



Chapter VII. Conclusions 117
The need for education and guidance 118
The baffling economic situation 123
The social and recreational situation 127
Governmental responsibilities 131
Local responsibilities 133

Appendix A. Supplementary tables 137

Appendix B. Method of estimating the number of youth _ 149

Appendix C. List of tables 151

Index 153


1. Trend in number of youth in the United States, 1920-1952 _ 2
2. Rural youth as percent of all youth, by State, 1930 _ _ _ 3
3. Children under 5 years of age per 1,000 women 20 through 44 years of age, white rural-farm population, 1930 _ _ _ 4
4. Children under 5 years of age per 1,000 women 20 through
44 years of age, white rural-nonfarm population, 1930 _ _ 5
5. Farm youth as percent of all rural youth, by State, 1930 _ 11
6. Replacement rates of males 18 through 64 years of age in the rural-farm population, by State, 1920 and 1930 _ _ 14
7. Number of male workers in agriculture, by type of em-ployment and age, 1930 24
8. Percent of rural-farm youth 16 and 17 years of age attend-ing school, 1929-30 46
9. Percent of rural-nonfarm youth 16 and 17 years of age attending school, 1929-30 46
10. Illiteracy among rural-farm youth 15 through 24 years of age, by State, 1930 48
11. Illiteracy among rural-nonfarm youth 15 through 24 years of age, by State, 1930 _ _ _ _ 48
12. Percent married of total youth population, by age, resi-dence, and sex, 1930 59
13. Percent married of rural youth population, by age, resi-dence, and sex, 1930 61


Photographs (WPA Photographs: Section One and WPA Photographs: Section Two)


  • What does the future hold?
  • Surplus youth must migrate
  • Map of district No 28
  • Learning to farm
  • Topping sugar beets
  • One type of seasonal employment
  • Young loafers in a mountain town
  • Turners Creek school district
  • One of the 132,000 one-room schools
  • A modern rural school
  • An FFA boy's test plot of hybrid corn
  • What is their chance for security?
  • Perplexed young parents
  • When urban amusements come to rural communities
  • A village "joint"
  • Bringing books to rural youth
  • A typical 4—H Club project
  • NYA trains prospective farmers
  • NYA gardening project
  • CCC boys going to school
  • Study hour in a South Dakota high school dormitory
  • At the employment office
  • The rural community must plan for its youth
  • Facing the future


YOUTH IS a period of economic and social adjustments. As the transition period from childhood to maturity it has tended progres-sively to expand as civilization has advanced.

It is here defined as including all young people 16 through 24 years of age. In a democ-racy it is society's obligation to make certain provisions for this tran-sition period. Schools have been made available on the secondary and college levels to prepare youth for making their adjustments, since it has been assumed that economic opportunity is open to the youth who are prepared through education to take advantage of it.

Despite the expansion of educational facilities, however, present economic opportunities are so limited that large numbers of young men and women are unable to establish themselves in a field that may be ex-pected to lead to economic security. As a result the problems of youth have become serious and far-reaching in their implications and effects.

Lack of economic opportunity with the resultant social consequences of unemployment, underemployment, or employment at work which is unsuited to individual temperament or capacity has, of course, not been limited to youth in recent years. But the demoralizing psycho-logical effects of idleness, discouragement, and frustration during periods of economic stress are particularly far-reaching and lasting for youth.

In recent years unemployment has been widespread among rural as well as urban youth, although more notice has been taken of the latter. Too often the rural youth situation has been dismissed with the state-ment that at least the young people on farms need not starve.

Such summary disposition of the matter fails to take account of the other necessities of human living or of the fact that there are thousands of rural young people in small towns who are just as desperate as their city cousins for a chance to develop their capacities and to banish the spectre of insecurity.

Many individuals and organizations are interested in the welfare of rural youth. Numerous programs are being planned in an attempt tit'• meet their problems. To guide this planning there has been a distinct need for a comprehensive statement of the general situation faced by youth in rural areas as well as a digest of what is known about the condition of youth in specific areas. Before new studies and pro-grams are undertaken, it is important to lmow what information past surveys, other studies, and census data have yielded.

A great deal of miscellaneous material of varying quality is avail-able, including some studies made on a State basis. The usable data on many topics are exceedingly scanty, however, and point to the need for further research. An. effort has been made in this report to sum-marize such data as are available and to supplement them with an evaluation of the situation and prospects of rural youth.

Chapter I discusses the distribution of youth; chapter II deals with their economic situation; chapter III treats of their educational status and opportunities; chapter IV takes up the marital condition of youth; wlaile chapter V summarizes their recreational opportunities.

Chapter VI discusses what governmental agencies and some nongovernmental agencies with programs for rural youth are doing in attempting to meet the situation faced by youth. The final chapter attempts to interpret the general situation and to point out the implications of the data presented in the preceding chapters for future programs and policies.

Letter of Transmittal


Washington, D. C., July 15, 1938.

Bm: I have the honor to transmit an analysis of the present situa-tion and future prospects of rural youth. The report is based on a comprehensive survey of the field studies and general literature dealing with rural youth.
Although there is already a "surplus" of rural youth, their numbers will increase steadily until some time between 1940 and 1945. Even assuming a considerable urbanward migration of farm youth, it ap-pears that there will be over 1,000,000 more youth in rural territory in 1940 than there were in 1930. With economic opportunities in rural areas already far from adequate to meet the demands of youth, the gravity of the situation is evident. Moreover, young people in rural areas are definitely handicapped with respect to educational and recreational facilities.
Many agencies, both governmental and nongovernmental, are pro-viding services and opportunities for rural youth, but their largely uncoordinated efforts reach only part of the rural young people who need assistance. Fundamental amelioration of the situation calls for united efforts in behalf of equalizing opportunities.
This study was made in the Division of Social Research under the direction of Howard B. Myers, Director of the Division. The data on which the report is based were collected and analyzed under the supervision of T. J. Woofter, Jr., Coordinator of Rural Research.
The report was written by Bruce L. Melvin and Elna N. Smith. I t was edited by Ellen Winston. Special acknowledgment is due the personnel of the National Youth Administration and of the Office of Emergency Conservation Work both for data and for constructive ri t icism.

Respectfully submitted.


Assistant Administrator.


Works Progress Administrator.

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WPA / Works Progress Administration
GG Archives


Farmers on Relief and Rehabilitation - WPA - 1937

Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration - 1938

Rural Families on Relief - Research Monograph XVII - 1938

Rural Youth: Their Situation and Prospects - Research Monograph XV - 1938

Rural Youth - Their Situation and Prospects - Conclusions - 1938

New Deal for Youth - The National Youth Administration (NYA) - 1938

1935-05 The Drought and Current Farm Imports

1936-10-15 Report on Progress of The Works Program

Final Report on the WPA Program 1935-43

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