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Volume 8 (2006/2007), ISSUE 13 (YEARLY)



Marilyn  Bruin, Christine  Cook, Mack Shelley and SUE CRULL



This article presents the analysis of an in-depth study of rural community housing development and sustained rural community vitality. Data from over 900 local informants in 134 small rural towns in the Midwestern United States were used to test a model examining the relationships between social capital, housing development, and community vitality. Forty percent of the communities had 500 or fewer residents. To increase local housing supplies in rural communities requires persistent engagement on the part of local leadership.  Strong networks of social relationships among leaders on behalf of these communities represent important social capital. The findings suggest that social capital is a powerful predictor of rural community vitality; that is, the presence and quality of community leaders whom informants trust represent an essential social resource in community economic and social development. A second factor important to predicting rural community vitality was improvements to the housing inventory. Overall, the findings confirm the empirical model, explaining 64% of the variance in rural community vitality. We surmise that within rural communities a small pool of individuals must be creative, forward-thinking, and attentive to both the housing needs of potential newcomers as well as existing residents. This leadership constitutes social capital available to the community and necessary for its future success.


Civic engagement- Housing - Leadership - Rural - Small towns - Social Capital - Communities - Community vitality 


Marilyn J. BRUIN is an associate professor in Housing Studies in the Department of Housing, Design, and Apparel at the University of Minnesota. She is also a housing specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service and primary investigator on the Rental Housing Pilot Program funded by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Dr. Bruin’s research and teaching foci are affordable housing, family well-being, and family and housing policy. She received her Ph.D. in 1995 from Iowa State University in Human Development and Family Studies with minors in Economic, Housing, and Political Science.

Christine C. COOK is an associate professor in Family Finance, Housing, and Policy at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, U.S.A.  She conducts research and teaches in the areas of housing policy and community development. Much of her work focuses on populations at risk and their housing circumstances; in particular, the elderly, single-parent families, children with disabilities, and most recently, Hispanic immigrants to the Midwest. She is the newly appointed coordinator of the Undergraduate Program in Gerontology.  Before coming to Iowa State University in 1991, she was on the faculty in urban planning at the University of New Orleans and at the University of Minnesota in the department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.  She received her Ph.D.  from The Ohio State University in 1982 in housing and urban sociology and her Master’s degree at Cornell University in Design and Environmental Analysis. 

Sue R. CRULL is an associate professor in Family Finance, Housing, and Policy at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, U.S.A. Her teaching and research focus on housing affordability, finance, and policy. Dr. Crull has been the recipient of many teaching awards and is actively engaged in a number of community housing initiatives. She has played a central role in research for the Center for Family Policy Research on the Iowa State campus. She has her Master's and Ph.D. from Iowa State University in Sociology and Family Environments.

Mack C. SHELLEY is a professor in both the Department of Statistics and Public Policy at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, U.S.A. He is also the Director of the Research Institute for Studies in Education on campus. He teaches advanced statistic courses and conducts research in most public policy arenas including education and leadership policy, housing, public administration, and gerontology.


This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the Second International Conference of The Social Capital Foundation, Buggiba, Republic of Malta, 20-23 September 2005. 

The research project on this publication is based was supported by the National Research Initiative of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, USDA, Grant #99-35401-7768, the Agricultural Experiment Station at Iowa State University, and the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. 


All work published in The International Scope Review is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any manner or in any medium - unless written consent  is given by The Social Capital Foundation represented by its President, unless the author's name and the one of The International Scope Review as the first publication medium appear on the work or the excerpt, and unless no charge is made for the copy containing the work or excerpt.

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