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With their big blue skies, fresh air, and vast green fields, the agricultural enclaves of the US have long played an integral role in the nation’s identity. Country living is perhaps one of its most enduring, yet perhaps most misunderstood, cultural narratives. The inspiration for countless country songs, rural America is at times both romanticised and disparaged for its simpler way of life and conservative leanings. We uncover the insights behind why many citizens – both urban and suburban – happily identify with their inner cowboy or cowgirl.

It’s deer season in Aynor, South Carolina, and local youth are buzzing with excitement. From the grocery store to the gas station, people decked out in Realtree camo go about their day prepping for their hunting trips with friends and family. Ford trucks are getting filled up with petrol, YETI coolers are being stocked with ice, snacks and drinks, backpacks are being loaded with tools and knives from Cabela’s, and Polaris UTVs are being secured to their tow trailers. With a strong tie to the land, and passion for the great outdoors, deer hunting is one of the biggest pastimes of rural America’s youth. For these Country Boys and Girls, an ideal life can be summarised perfectly by Luke Bryan’s hit single 'Huntin', Fishin' And Lovin' Every Day’.

The ideal illustrated in Bryan’s chart-topper is a theme that comes up a lot in country music and its associated lifestyle – a fresh air fantasy that’s becoming increasingly influential in the lives of American youth. In fact, there has been a 54% increase in country fans aged 18-24 over the last decade. “What people like about country is its emotional aspect,” says Karen Stump, senior director of consumer research at the Country Music Association. “It’s authentic, it’s a storytelling genre, and that’s what everybody says that they love about country music as a genre regardless of their age, their race, where they live.”

Modern Country Boys and Girls are no bumpkins Modern Country Boys and Girls are no bumpkins
Thomas Hawk (2016) ©

There are four core values that unite Country Boys and Girls: family, faith, freedom and fun. Settling down earlier than other American couples, the average age of marriage among women in the Midwest and the South is around 25, two years below the national average. And as 41% of rural residents go to church at least once a week, many of these youth are being brought up with a strong tie to their local religious communities, placing emphasis on family values, a dedication to the Christian faith, and protecting American freedoms.

Despite the recession’s economic toll on rural communities in the US – not to mention the shrinking population – country living is still very much valued among Americans. Today’s rural youth are well aware of the benefits of residing in the countryside, as a lower cost of living often allows for money to be spent on big-ticket items; 30% of country music fans want to buy a new pickup truck, and are willing to pay up to $31,805 to have their vehicle fully loaded with modern tech. Because this group marry and have children at a younger age, there’s also a great opportunity for brands to establish lifelong connections with growing families far sooner than with those in other areas. As the rural populations across the States continue to play a tremendous part in the country’s history, economy and cultural identity, the Country Boys and Girls will carry on this big sky pride for generations to come.

Andrea Graham Richeson is a writer for Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She specialises in youth culture, gaming, fandoms, social media, and new media. She is the founder of Youth Tribes.

Canvas8

09 Nov 17
3 min read

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