How is Appalachia statistically different from the rest of America in terms of income, health, and educational statistics?
Appalachia shows several ranges in terms of Income and Unemployment. When President Johnson formed the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in 19643, they reported that “We can infer that the ‘real’ Appalachian standards of living are below national norms.”10 Although income has risen to $55,000 (2000 statistics), with a poverty rate of 13.7%. The Median household income of the U.S. in 2002 was actually $50,740 according to the US. Census Bureau.11
With the website, “StateMaster.com” we can see a clearer picture for three states: Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio. From 1) Employment, to 2) Percent of Related Children Below Poverty Level, to 3) Welfare Caseloads > Total recipients.
Kentucky is reported to be 25th of 52 states in Employment, 6th of 51 in Percent of Related Children Below Poverty Level, and 19th of 54 dealing with Welfare Caseloads > Total recipients.7
Ohio showed to be 7th of 52, 23rd of 51, and 6th of 54 respectively.9
West Virginia showed the worse, being 38th of 52, 7th of 51, and 33rd of 54th.8
Three completely different states, showing a disturbing pattern that is lower than the national average.
The ARC reports that the health standards of Appalachia are really painful, in the following categories; Physician supply, Dentist supply, Hospital profitability, Nursing home profitability, Home health services, Mental health services, Drug and alcohol treatment, Obstetric Services, and Economic impact of health care institutions.
Physician supply is slowly growing, while Dentist supply has zero growth, to a shortage in rural areas. Except for profitability in Hospitals, which require a larger facility, and Home Health Services which are available in most communities, all seem to be slow, to below what’s needed.
The biggest problems still center around Dentists. (Did not improve from 1987 to 1998), Substance abuse treatment services, Psychiatric services, and Obstetric care. All of this is below the national average of the U.S.
Because Appalachia isn’t a state, but a region, there is no central figures about educational statistics. One must go through each state in which Appalachia runs though, and compile the data. However, according to StateMaster.com’s Education Statistics, for Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.
West Virginia ranges from 30 out of 51 states, to 51st, out of 51 states in education.4
Ohio on the other hand, has a wide range from 1st of 51, to 40th of 51. in education.5
Then Kentucky, goes from 1st of 50, to 48th out of 50. in education.6
Again, like in income three different states, but all showing a lower set of statistics, than the national average.
World System Theory (WST) helps to outline the problems, but also may point to a path to help Appalachia cure it’s abject poverty and hopelessness. But it also may point to the path, for the entire U.S. by outlining what is best in Appalachia, and the U.S. and combining them into a better whole.
WST shows very clearly that Appalachia has a unique (at least in the U.S.) value system that seems to be totally unacceptable to the majority of the U.S. The premodern values of Appalachia, deals with several types of differentiating values. Although many U.S. “modern” values, seems to contrast with Appalachia’s premodern. It seems that the U.S.’s values can be condensed into four separate catalogs. 1) Profit, and the generation of wealth over anything else, which leads to destructive greed. 2) Impersonal, and narcissistic attitudes. 3) A “drone” mentality, in which there are no personal relationships, the family works apart, Urban life, direct, in-your-face approach, and finally. 4) Change is imperative, positive, inevitable. All this sounds much like a form of communism, or maybe a Plutocracy.
While taking into account Appalachia’s “premodern” value system. The focus appears to be on family, friends, and community, versus the self. You depend on family and friends and know that “Your back is covered” if necessary. Leisure and sports is something you enjoy doing, not because your being paid ungodly amounts of money. Yes, you don’t make as much money, and times may be a bit rough but as it’s shown. Wealth does not equal happiness, and you have a community to help.
Immanuel Wallerstein writes in “The Modern World-System” ‘Cultural homogenization tends to serve the interests of key groups, and the pressures build up to create cultural-national identities’. Appalachia doesn’t seem to have developed a cultural homogenization. Perhaps because of the age in which it was ‘created’; around the time of the American Civil War. Imperialism and colonialism were over. Perhaps too, since Appalachia didn’t succeed from the union, so remained ‘off the radar’ until a more enlightened people arose in the early 20th century. Whatever the reason, Appalachia kept its unique culture, and by the time of the 1960s in which Kennedy, then Johnson’s administrations found out about Appalachia2,3 it didn’t need to be changed, or the need to change it was gone. Whatever the reason, this deeply entrenched culture now is at some odds with the more modern core the U.S.
When was Appalachia viewed as different from other parts of America?
Mr. Eller outlines it very clearly, in his book “Uneven Ground”.
In the years after the 1860s, or more aptly the American civil war, Appalachia was “created” by urban journalists. Mr. Eller wrote, that these journalists, was of one of two mindsets. Ones who disliked modernity was envious and admired Appalachia. For to them, this was like a region caught in time. It was idolized, and compartmentalized, as an earlier frontier life, a simpler, and calmer time that should be protected, and preserved.1
But for ones who longed for the life that modernity brought about, it was a blight, an affirmation to the rest of the United States. One in which the isolated, and “backward” people should be uplifted to the level in which they themselves was more use too, by way of industrialization, and education.1
This “uplifting” however, was exploited, by the hands of individuals, and corporations, so by the time Michael Harrington outlined the region’s problems in his study, and book “The Other America.” (ISBN 0-684-82678-X)2 and the documentary film of the same name. Appalachia was long known for its persistent unemployment and poverty.
In 1960, Presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, was the main reason the rest of the U.S. finally “learned” of the poverty of the region. President Kennedy established the President’s Appalachian Regional Commission (PARC) in 19633 But his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1965, helped bring about Kennedy’s efforts in the form of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which passed into law in 1965.3
Why was Appalachia viewed as different from other parts of America?
Despite all of the work done by the ARC, the “War on Poverty” and the PARC, Appalachia still hadn’t corrected the foundation problems of the loss of communities, Political corruption, land abuse, and economic shortfalls. In fact, the area continues its lag behind the rest of the nation in most areas, except one; Black Appalachia which has shown a growth.
The major reason Appalachia is seen different isn’t just the poverty, or “backwardness” as portrayed in the film, and TV. But also it’s America’s definition of “progress” Just what is progress? Time, again and again, Appalachia has been a challenge to the modern conceptions of progress. To a nation of modern values, it’s seen as a backward area. A poor region, in a nation of plenty. But the major reason is simply that Americans need it to show us, what we’re not. It’s a narcissistic, and a rather childish view, in which modern Americans must have someone to ”
point too to say “I’m better than you.”
But it is also a laboratory, in which macro-sociological experiments to become “better” can be used. If we can uplift Appalachia, then we can uplift say the Middle East, India, or Afghanistan into the modern world. But time and again, history has shown. You can’t change a deeply embedded culture.
World System Theory
World System Theory (WST), is a macrosociological perspective, that seeks to explain Capitalism, in a total social system. Although it’s said that there is a world-system theory for every theorist, Immanuel Wallerstein was the one who tried to create an alternative explanation of this theory. Others involved are Carlos A. Martinez-Vela, Nuno Pessoa Barradas, Fernand Braudel Andre Gunder, Frank Gills, and Barry K Gills. Appalachia, is a good, and unique case for WST, because it’s considered a second, or third world country within the core of the U.S. With WST, we can use it, to understand the region’s poverty, and to help move it along. For a good example of WST, for Appalachia, consider Coal camps; The “core” U.S. needs coal companies to obtain the coal. Hence the coal companies are the semi-periphery. In turn, Coal companies need laborers to do the work, making them the periphery. This, however, makes the Appalachian people desperately dependent upon the coal companies, for jobs, and financial security.
The current people of Appalachia and the entire region of Appalachia has a value system, that is considered “premodern”. A value system that has several items of value such as “Personal relationships”, over “impersonal interactions”, “Thrift” vs “Buy” and so forth. In fact, the entire region seems to be based on this system. The reason for this was handed down from generation to generation, dating back to the ancestors in Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Germany’s Palatinate regions. The people was specifically Scott-Irish, British, and Germanic people. One good example of this value system at work is in the documentary, “An American Hollow” in which the families pooled their money, for the bail of one of the boys, wrongfully accused. This is a great example of “family and community over self,”, “family works together”, and “status”
Daniel Boone, Born in 1734, died in 1820, was an American pioneer, and hunter. His skills as a scout, friend of the Indians, negotiator, and hunter marked him, as a legend and one of the first folk heroes in the United States. He was hired by Col. Richard Henderson, to blaze a trail through the Cumberland Gap. He used his knowledge, and negotiation skills with the Indians to be allowed passage into Kentucky. With his efforts, he opened up the Appalachia trail, and the way through it, for people to settle the west.
Between the 1900s and the 1950s, there was many coal camps or towns. A couple of examples was the Keokee Coal and Coke Company, Clinch River Field, and Valley Field. Coal camps, was a town built, and ran by coal companies for the purpose of mining coal, and keeping expenses at a bare minimum. They used it to house the laborers and their families. The houses were the bare minimum, rentals. One of these towns was New River Field in Fayette Co, WV. Due to the low cost, of construction, and the need for jobs, Appalachian workers were easy to exploit.
An American Hollow was an HBO documentary about a family of Appalachians, called the “Bowling” Irene and Bass Bowling is the father and mother of the clan, filmed within this documentary. From there, 13 sons and daughters were followed. Some others were Bascum, Clint, Edgar, and Samantha. It was filmed in Mud Hollow, where Rory (the producer) wanted to explore the effects of welfare on rural life. By allowing the family to tell their story, they outlined specifically what it is like to be Appalachian. What better example, than with a family that is born, raised, and dies in the area?
Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a federal-state partnership that works for the sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia. Its reach is all through the Appalachian region. It was developed in the 1960s, by way of the Conference of Appalachian Governors to develop a regional approach to resolving problems in Appalachia. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy was moved by the poverty he saw in his campaign trips through West Virginia. In 1963 he formed a federal-state committee that came to be known as the President’s Appalachian Regional Commission (PARC), and directed it to draw up “a comprehensive program for the economic development of the Appalachian Region.” The resulting program was outlined in an April 1964 report that was endorsed by the Conference of Appalachian Governors and Cabinet-level officials. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used PARC’s report as the basis for legislation developed with the bipartisan support of Congress. The ARC uses grants, contracts, area development programs, and the highway program to fulfill its goals.
The Cumberland Gap is located just north of the spot where the current-day states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet. The nearby town of Cumberland Gap, TN takes its name from the pass. It was named after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and is a 19 km long, gap in the Cumberland mountain ridge. Consisting of four unique geological structures; The Pine Mountain gap, Yellow Creek valley, the natural gas in the Cumberland Mountain Ridge, and the Middlesboro meteorite impact crater. The gap is a natural gap between mountains, that American aboriginals and animals are able to move from Kentucky to the eastern seaboard. A good example is the Pine Mountain Gap, but this is also where three historical roads of Boone’s’ converged.
Mentalite, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a set of values, beliefs, and thought processes, shared by members of a community. In this case, the Appalachian people have a “premodern” mentality. This different belief system is totally different from the majority of the rest of the U.S because of the cultural. An example is “personal relationships”, vs “impersonal relationships”, “thrift”, vs “buy”, “sport for fun”, vs “commercialization of fun.”
Internalization is a two-part belief. One, on the one hand, it is a negative belief that one is inferior to another, which is told, and taught by ones who feel they’re superior to another group. This is basically internalized racial oppression and internalized white privilege. In Appalachia, it is directed to the rural, and African American Appalachians. Internalizing helps to reinforce negative feelings about one’s culture and significance. A good example, is Cliff Bowling, in An American Hollow. He expressed his continuing outrage of being an Appalachian, how he couldn’t make living, or even to be able to do anything with his life. He learned this, by how Moderns portray the Appalachians. We are called “hillbillies”, “savages”, “white-trash”, while African American Appalachians, are terrorized by the KKK.
When it comes to stereotypes, Appalachians are one prime example. Called “Hillbillies”, “White Trash”, “inbreeds” and other derogatory terms. Our culture and premodern value systems make us targets of this. This is enforced by TV, movies, and the internet at times. One example is “The Beverly Hillbillies” which came very close to being made into a reality show before outcry shelved the project.
Eller, Ronald D. 2008. Uneven Ground. The University Press of Kentucky. p 2
2. Wikipedia. (Updated: 27 April 2009 at 21:56. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Othe…
3. Wikipedia. (Updated: 29 June 2009 at 21:36. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalach…
4. StateMaster.com. West Virginia Education stats (Updated: 2009. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) www.statemaster.com/state/WV-w…
5. StateMaster.com. Ohio Education stats (Updated: 2009. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) www.statemaster.com/state/OH-o…
6. StateMaster.com. Kentucky Education stats (Updated: 2009. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) www.statemaster.com/state/OH-o…
7. StateMaster.com. Kentucky Economy Stats (Updated: 2009. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) www.statemaster.com/state/KY-k…
8. StateMaster.com. Ohio Economy Stats (Updated: 2009. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) www.statemaster.com/state/KY-k…
9. StateMaster.com. West Virginia Economy Stats (Updated: 2009. Accessed: 29 June 2009.) www.statemaster.com/state/KY-k…
10. Black, Dan A. University of Chicago, Mather, Mark. Population Reference Bureau, Sanders, Seth G. University of Maryland At College Park. September 2007. Standards of Living in Appalachia, 1960 to 2000. (Last Revised: September 2007. Accessed: 29 June 2009.)
11. U.S. Census Bureau. State & County QuickFacts. Median household income, 2007 (Last Revised: Friday, 19-Jun-2009 09:50:27 EDT. Accessed: 29 June 2009.)