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There is growing concern, particularly in policy circles, that rural manufacturing plants may be less likely to export than metro area plants, and that this may exacerbate the economic difficulties of rural America. A variety of reasons have been offered to expect this export gap, but little empirical work has been done. Using a database of all manufacturing establishments in seven southeastern states and the county and/or zip code-level characteristics of their environment, we find that rural plants are indeed somewhat less likely to export than their urban counterparts. Though there are several explanations for the existence of this gap, factors specific to the rural environment—lower levels of human capital and information externalities—are its largest source.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Economics and Finance, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132., Email: 2: Department of Political Science and Economics Research Center, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132., Email:

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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