Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Forrest A. Deseran


The geographic area where workers reside and work defines the labor market area. The opportunities available in labor market areas vary considerably. For workers, these differences represent opportunity boundaries. The employment profile of rural labor market areas and the resulting impact on workers' earnings are the foci of this research. Three research phases are reported. First, a descriptive analysis of labor market area differences is provided. Second, factors contributing to earnings differences are discussed. Third, results of exploratory analysis for farm couples' off-farm earnings are reported. The data used in analysis is the U.S. Census PUMS-D individual level data which is clustered by multi-county labor market areas. Labor market areas studied are limited to rural labor market areas only. These are labor market areas in which at least half of the population resides outside of urban centers. Those labor market areas with agricultural dependent counties are identified as agricultural labor market areas while those with manufacturing dependent counties are identified as manufacturing labor market areas. A profile of rural labor markets is provided by region and by economic base. Using a direct standardization technique the rural labor market areas are compared. Findings indicate that differences in the wage structure of the regions has a greater impact than occupational distribution or industrial employment distribution. Further analysis for men and women found employment opportunity differences and labor force segmentation among the rural labor market areas. Earnings differences were shown to be affected by labor market characteristics as well as individual human capital factors. Living in a rural labor market area with agricultural based counties had a significantly negative impact on men's off-farm earnings. The industry and occupation of employment were also significant factors for most men. For women, employment in professional or managerial occupations had a greater effect than did individual factors of age and education. Locational factors of region and the economic base of the labor market were not significant for women's off-farm earnings.