Small-town American: Finding community, shaping the future by Robert Wuthnow

Small-town America by Robert Wuthnow

Professor Robert Wuthnow draws on in-depth interviews and census data to draw a portrait of life in small-town America.

More than 30 million Americans live in small, out-of-the-way places. Many of them could have chosen to join the vast majority of Americans who live in cities and suburbs. They could live closer to better paying jobs, more 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. Drawing on more than 700 in-depth interviews in hundreds of towns across America and three decades of census data, Robert Wuthnow, the Gerhard R. Andlinger ’52 Professor of Social Sciences, 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 the lives and livelihoods of people who reside in small communities, finding that, for many people, living in a small town is an important part of self-identity.

Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2013 (Cover image and text courtesy of the publisher.)