When you drive through the Ozarks these days, you see fairly quickly that there are actually two “Ozarks” (or more, depending on how you slice it). There are the prosperous, tech-savvy, rapidly growing urban centers like Springfield, Fayetteville, and Bentonville, and there are the decaying, aging, deep rural counties with their tattered “Trump/Pence” flags flying forlornly in the front yard a year after the election, as if reality could be altered by an act of defiant will. The fancy word for this phenomenon is “inequality,” and to some extent it’s always been the case. The fortunate areas get rich, the less fortunate areas get left behind.
Some parts of the region get the latte bars, other parts get part-time shift work at the Dollar General.An astute observer of the Ozarks economic and cultural scene is historian Jared Phillips, and he recently published a thought-provoking article on this trend, which he describes as “rural decay coupled with corporate extraction and an expansion of inequality.” If you’re at all interested in the competing visions for how to revive the rural economy, you need to read it.
Here’s the link.