The NY Times reports today that the $4 per gallon national average price of gas has hit rural America the hardest.

Sociologists and economists who study rural poverty say the gasoline crisis in the rural South, if it persists, could accelerate population loss and decrease the tax base in some areas as more people move closer to urban manufacturing jobs. They warn that the high cost of driving makes low-wage labor even less attractive to workers, especially those who also have to pay for child care and can live off welfare and food stamps.

“As gas prices rise, working less could be the economically rational choice,” said Tim Slack, a sociologist at Louisiana State University who studies rural poverty. “That would mean lower incomes for the poor and greater distance from the mainstream.”

Some innovative adaptations are being implemented to offset the costs of commuting and doing business. One county has reduced to a four day work week to cut down on travel costs and another has laid off county workers and is using jail inmates for labor jobs.

Meanwhile, Coquille intends to increase its police budget yet again to 34% of the general fund and charge up to $100 per hour to provide copies to citizens