Richelle Winkler is this year’s winner of the A.H. Kolb Award. Kolb served as the chair of the Department of Rural Sociology from 1930 to 1938 and 1939-1949, and the award is given to a student–graduate or undergraduate–in recognition of scholarly achievement.
Winkler is a rural demographer, an applied demographer, and a community sociologist. Broadly speaking, her research examines population change in rural communities and investigates how population growth, decline, or turnover affects community well-being. Winkler is particularly interested in relationships between communities’ economic structure, natural resource base, and selective migration patterns by demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.
Winkler’s dissertation examines rural communities that serve as destinations for in-migrants and seasonal residents. It analyzes how destination development perpetuates uneven development between rural communities and inequality within rural destinations. She finds that population turnover in destination counties is remarkably high and that young adults out-migrate from destination counties at similar rates as they do farming and mining dependent counties. Furthermore, drawing on a case study of the Brainerd lakes area in Minnesota, she shows that amenity destination development fosters residential segregation by income and age. Following a political economic urbanization process, amenity development concentrates wealth in the highest amenity areas and poverty in more affordable areas, older people around the lakes, and younger people in the small city centers. More affluent residents then compete with lower income and younger residents for public and private goods and services that support their own different interests. This process supports environmental initiatives, specialized health care, and the arts while programs that would benefit a lower income and younger population (i.e. public schools and affordable housing initiatives) remain underfunded and largely inefficient. In the end, the younger adult population is particularly likely to face social exclusion in the face of amenity destination development. Overall, the research demonstrates the uneven nature of rural development and challenges the idea that amenity-based development improves social and economic conditions in rural America.
In addition to her more academic research, Winkler has been working as a professional researcher and applied demographer in the Applied Population Laboratory (APL) since 2004. At the APL, Winkler’s areas of expertise include: small area population estimates and projections, demographic profiling of regions and communities, and integrating geospatial and sociological research. She has served as a project manager on research as diverse as developing an innovative age-period-cohort approach to making projections of the number of future deer hunters, to projecting the number of high school graduates for Wisconsin counties by race/ethnicity and sex, to analyzing the demographic and socioeconomic structure of communities in northern Wisconsin for potential post-secondary educational opportunities.
In her free time, Winkler coaches volleyball at Sauk Prairie high school, plays volleyball, hikes with her Nova Scotian duck tolling retriever, explores small towns with her husband Andy, and plays hide and seek with her son Sam.