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Self-employment is becoming more common in Nebraska’s rural areas, especially in its smaller communities, according to the 2014 Nebraska Rural Poll by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While the most recent recession may not have led to overall job losses in Nebraska, it may have accelerated a trend toward greater self-employment, particularly in rural portions of the state, said Randy Cantrell, rural sociologist with the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute.

Rural households also are using self-employment and multiple-job-holding strategies to “piece together their incomes,” researchers said.

The poll found that 75 percent of rural households had at least one household member with a full-time job. Of the rural households in which at least one person was working, 43 percent derived a portion of their income from self-employment.

Self-employment can be found in greater numbers in or near smaller communities: 58 percent of respondents living in or near towns with populations less than 500 have at least one self-employed person in their household, compared with 31 percent of households in or near communities of 10,000 or more.

Sixty-one percent of self-employed households in or near the smallest communities have a ranch or farm, 48 percent have a farm-related business, 41 percent have a nonfarm business and 11 percent provide contract service to a company, the poll found.

The 19th annual poll was sent to 6,813 households in 86 Nebraska counties last spring. Results are based on 1,943 responses. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. The complete report can be viewed at ruralpoll.unl.edu/report14.

Other findings:

» Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2012 show self-employment to be the fastest-growing employment segment in Nebraska’s nonmetropolitan counties. The 2014 poll backs up those findings.

» Almost three in 10 self-employed households derive at least 76 percent of their income from self-employment. However, most households with a self-employed member rely on other income sources. “Self-employment is only one piece of their income,” said UNL professor Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel.

» Multiple job-holding is more common in smaller communities: 51 percent of people living in or near towns with populations ranging from 500 to 999 hold multiple jobs, compared with 37 percent of those living in or near cities with populations of 10,000 or more.

» 18 percent of employed rural Nebraska households have at least one member who telecommutes for at least one job.

» 28 percent of employed households report at least one member is overqualified for their job.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1142, janice.podsada@owh.com

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